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Monday, June 17, 2024

The man who killed bipartisanship

Newt Gingrich


Sounds like a great concept.

At one time, it actually existed in the halls of power in Washington.

Bipartisanship helped President Ronald Reagan get his tax cuts through a reluctant, Democratic-controlled Congress in 1981.

In those days, the Republican Party — in the minority in Congress just like it is today — was led by GOP leader Robert Michel of Illinois, a Congressman who believed that building coalitions was the best way to serve the best interests of a nation.

But even as Michel managed to advance Republican causes in a Democratic-held Congress, an angry movement was forming in the GOP, led by Georgia firebrand Next Gingrich, who believed confrontation and bitter obstructionist tactics best served the agenda of the party.

I worked on Capitol Hill as a press secretary, chief of staff and committee staffer for Republican Congressmen from 1981-87 and watched Gingrich’s rise from obscurity to the architect of the demise of congeniality and bi-partisanship in the House.

Gingrich challenged Michel’s coalition-building and bipartisan style as “weak” and began building a leadership base. His efforts paid off in 1994 when his “Contract With America” struck a chord with voters and gave Republicans control of Congress.

But Gingrich is a liar and hypocrite who — like so many politicians — said many things in the election season and immediately forgot all campaign promises as soon as the polls closed.

The Contract With America promised term-limits. Gingrich and the GOP abandoned that idea right after the election.

He promised an end to “Christmas Tree legislation” where amendments that had nothing to do with an original bill were tacked on as gifts to gain votes. As Speaker of the House in 1995, Gingrich presided over a Congress that passed record spending bills packed with Congressional pork.

Gingrich openly skewered President Bill Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. At the same time he was screwing a Congressional committee staff member and would later dump his wife to marry his paramour.

When Gingrich took control of the GOP, bi-partisanship and coalition-building died. When he became Speaker of the House he turned that legislative body into a bitterly-divided partisan snake pit.

Gingrich’s legacy lives on today in a Congress frozen in partisan gridlocked, incapable of building coalitions, generating meaningful legislation or serving the needs of America.

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