Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Newt Gingrich--Failed Republican

Newt Gingrich was coauthor of the Contract with America in 1994 and became Speaker of the House in 1995, claiming that he would reduce government, abolish the department of education, and end corruption. Instead, while he led Congress, he got embroiled in corruption scandals that mirrored those of the Democrats he had replaced.  The Republican Congress reduced  federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, GDP, chiefly because of the "peace dividend" that had resulted from the end of the Cold War. Gingrich and his Congress did little to reduce spending other than cut military spending, cuts that began (as a percentage of GDP) in 1989.  The department of education went full steam ahead.

Gingrich resigned after only a few years amidst complaints about corruption involving a book deal.  As well, he allowed himself to be accused of battling President Clinton over the federal budget not because he cared about spending but because he was miffed that he had gotten a bad seat on the President's plane. The repeated exhibition of self-indulgent, selfish immaturity weakened the GOP.

Subsequent to Gingrich's departure, impeaching Clinton absorbed the Republican Congress's energy.  If the Democrats could stop the Republicans from cutting government, why couldn't they stop them from impeaching Clinton?

Gingrich is a tragic figure.  He is one of the few national GOP leaders to have come out against the Paulson-Bush-Obama bailout.  He deserves credit for this. He is brilliant. He is a liberal in the old-fashioned meaning.*  But his failure to execute his contract with America in the mid 1990s remains a blot on the GOP's record, one that was made much worse by the GOP's unforgivably dismal record during the Bush years.

It would be tragic if Gingrich were the best the GOP could do for a presidential candidate.

*The old-fashioned word "liberal" in fact means someone who believes in freedom, free market capitalism, and less government. Because those policies had such favorable results, advocates of socialism and social democracy began to call themselves "liberal". But socialism and social democracy had dismal results, so the term "liberal" became one of opprobrium.  It is a better term to describe what I believe than is conservative. I do not wish to conserve a thing. 

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