Return of the Jedi
THAT WAS SOME speech House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave to GOPAC last Monday night in Washington. One might think somebody had slipped the male potency pill Viagra into his water glass.
Gingrich was his old self, condemning President Clinton as leading the most corrupt administration "in history," defending independent counsel Kenneth Starr and excoriating his Democratic colleagues in the House for stonewalling and obstructing justice. The audience gave him several standing ovations of the kind not seen since "Contract With America" days.
What's going on? Gingrich has just finished a book tour hawking Lessons Learned the Hard Way, an apologia in which he says "I'm sorry" more than Brenda Lee did in her old hit song. Ten days ago the Speaker and I ate a continental breakfast together on his balcony ("the second best view in Washington"), and there was no indication he was about to haul out the big rhetorical guns again. He predicted a net GOP gain in the fall elections of "between 14 and 40 seats in the House," though Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) tells me that internal House Republican polls currently show a net gain of just two seats, which Shadegg says would be a "disaster."
Gingrich may have gotten the message from Republican officials around the country and from conservative talk radio that the grass roots wants some fertilizer. In an "off-year" election, turnout is crucial. Religious conservatives believe Republicans have sold them out on social issues. Economic conservatives think Republicans have sold them out on tax-and-spend issues, as too many are going along with a new tax on cigarettes and huge spending on the highway bill. And there is concern among many PACs and other special-interest groups about the threat to their First Amendment rights if "campaign reform" is pushed through, which would limit access by some groups to the airwaves close to an election.
There are also signs that Republicans may be about to play the role of Jedi knights instead of C3PO weenies who cringe at the first sign of trouble and wish they were somewhere else. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) took to the House floor and laid out his own indictment against Democrats for "obstructing justice."
"Ever since this investigation has gone on," said Burton of his Democrat colleagues, "they've tried to drag it out, and drag it out ... to keep us from getting the facts ... and then they blame us for taking so long. They keep information from us, and then they blame us for taking too long. They try to keep us from talking to witnesses who want to talk to us, and then they blame us for taking too long."
Burton will try again this coming week to get some of the 19 Democrats on his Government Reform and Oversight Committee to vote in favor of immunity for four figures involved in raising money for the Democrats during the 1996 election. Speaker Gingrich says the Justice Department has agreed for the four to be deposed by the committee with the use of grant immunity, but committee Democrats won't budge.
Gingrich brought up former Sen. Howard Baker as a role model for Democrats. In his GOPAC speech, he said that Baker behaved honorably by going after Richard Nixon when it was obvious Nixon was guilty of a cover-up and other wrongdoing.
Burton laid out a few truths about the behavior of top Democrats during the 1996 election and concluded: "We're hellbent to get to the bottom of this (and) getting the facts out. Because the American people have the right to know if their government's for sale, if their foreign policy is for sale, if their defense capabilities are for sale. And if it is, those responsible need to be brought to justice. That's what we're all about. And we're going to stay after it until we get the facts out."
Gingrich, Burton and their GOP colleagues need to keep talking
tough like this, while reminding the public of what honor looks
like. With this administration, even that noble character quality
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout