Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Double Standards: Newt Gingrich

The former Speaker of the House Representative, Newt Gingrich has been a potent force of politics for many years. In 1990 he helped usher in a Republican majority in the US House of Representatives by making the individual House races a national issue, behind his Contract with America. This was no small measure: the Democrats were in control of the House for 40 years prior, and the change of majority is often referred to the Republican Revolution. That majority hold firm even today, with net gains each election since.

Critics would argue that Mr. Gingrich's Contract with America came too late in the election season to make any difference at the polls; but those same critics would deride the plan as the Contract on America. How can something so seemingly trivial be 'so bad' as to negatively target the country? As a bonus, when you ask those critics how many of the points in the Contract were vetoed by President Clinton, you'll often silence those naysayers. Not all of the Contract points were signed into law; some never left the House. The point was a commitment to debate improvements in the House was made, and that commitment was kept, and few would argue the House or the nation suffered for it.

Speaker Gingrich is a statesman, a historian, and world-class speaker. He is a best-selling author, having written several books on politics and novels on the history of the South. His political philosophies embody the best of Conservatism principles. He was and remains a powerful voice in politics.

His personal conduct, however, is not an area that can be overlooked. What he has done involving his wives over the years is well known, and in more than one case downright despicable. To many, these matters do not matter. But I would hypocritical were I not to hold the Speaker of the House, the # 3 position in the Government, to a similar status as I would hold the #1 position.

Speaker Gingrich is often ridiculed that his dealings with women are made doubly bad because of his sharp criticism of President Clinton regarding his despicable acts in the White House. The only trouble is, nowhere is there any evidence that Mr. Gingrich ever took the President to task regarding Monica Lewinski. Furthermore, while I would not nominate Mr. Gingrich for any medal of valor, nowhere has ever been found liable for lying under oath.

The Speaker was found liable for a few ethics violations, and that was after some 40 or so charges of impropriety were leveled against him. As stated previously in this Blog, few in the Congress in either party can pass such an acid test, while that is not an excuse for Mr. Gingrich, he is at least in a broad company. The bigger double-standard came in 1997 from an incident involving an illegally taped conference call that was chaired by Gingrich. At the time, Gingrich had agreed not to involve himself in forming a strategy with fellow GOP members for dealing with a response to his ethics violations.

The problem, above the fact that phone call was illegally tapped and recorded, was that the call had nothing to do with the strategy, but rather the Speaker delegating general House tasks to subordinates during that time. No evidence was presented that he discussed the proposed response; it simply wasn't reported that way.

Mr. Gingrich is in the news of late, having been paired with the former First Lady and current Junior Senator from the great state of New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton. This, it has been explained, demonstrates the lengths he will go to make himself more appealing to Democratic voters, since they are teamed up on the matter of Health Care.

I find it odd that it is Speaker Gingrich who is said to be leaning left, and not Sen. Clinton suggested to be leaning right. Could it be both pols see the advantage in working together, towards the middle, on a matter so highly charged and important? After all, the First Lady does have first hand knowledge of how her radical left-wing agenda for health care left a bad taste in the mouths of the voters.

Some have suggested that Speaker Gingrich's recent book tours to Iowa mark the vanguard of his 2008 presidential run. This may be simply an attempt to test the waters. Were he in the Republican primary, he would not be my first choice against 'Republican X', because of the consistent disrespect shown for his wives. On the other hand, when compared against many of the 9 recent Democratic primary challengers, Mr. Gingrich stands head and shoulders above the rest on political principles.

It would indeed be a difficult choice for me to make. Fortunately, that choice need not be made for another 3 years. In that time, the captivating oratory of Mr. Gingrich may well cause a groundswell of support in his favor. If he fashions an agenda in a similar fashion to that of the Contract, he stands to garner broad, bipartisan support.

Coming full circle, this piece was the third installment in double standards. Undoubtedly, there will be those people on the Left who suddenly find the history of Mr. Gingrich to a case of moral turpitude; I wonder how many of these people thought the same way about President Clinton?

Compounding matters, should the House Ethics Panel ever reconvene, one of the first matters to be dealt with indirectly involves Speaker Gingrich. For that illegally taped phone call was acquired by Rep. James " Baghdad Jim" McDermott (D – Wa), who was recently found guilty of distributing that same tape to the New York Times. Any conviction of a House member automatically triggers an ethics probe in.

I wonder what the Gingrich critics will say about Rep. McDermott's ethical lapses.

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