I spoke to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) by telephone a short time ago. He entered Congress in January 1993 and was there for the Contract with America and the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House. I asked him about some of Gingrich’s recent claims.
Gingrich talks about his ethics problems as if it were purely a Democratic plot to oust him. But is that accurate? King dismisses that assertion, although he acknowledges that many Democrats had partisan motives. “It was a 7 to 1 vote [on the ethics committee]. Even Republicans who may have wanted to help him couldn’t because he had given so much ammunition to the Democrats.” He says the entire ethics probe was a microcosm of Gingrich’s leadership problems. “It was indicative of Newt — creating crisis,” King says. “He was careless. He was reckless. He was irresponsible.”
Gingrich’s denial of lobbying activities don’t stand up to the facts, either. King says: “I do remember specifically, right before the vote on Medicare Plan Part D in December [or] November 2003, he spoke to the entire Republican caucus.” He recalls that former congressman Dick Armey had come out against the bill. But Gingrich came in “as a conservative, as a former speaker of the House,” to argue for the bill’s passage. We now know that Gingrich had health-care clients anxious to see the measure pass. This isn’t even close; it’s lobbying in its purest form.
King tells me that, when Gingrich says things that aren’t so, he no doubt believes what he is saying. As for Freddie Mac, King says, “You don't get paid $1.6 million as an historian. It strains credulity.” He notes that if it were a Democrat saying these things, Gingrich would be saying it was the most preposterous assertion in congressional memory. (Gingrich likes hyperbole, you know.)
How does Gingrich say things that aren’t true with such conviction? “Newt believes what is good for Newt is the truth,” King says. And that is perhaps the scariest part of all.