Newt Gingrich has billed himself as the more “consistent conservative” in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. According to Gingrich, he engineered the 1995 Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, balanced the budget and reformed welfare. If that is the case, why wouldn’t all conservatives want this man in the White House?
In 1994, Gingrich did lead the revolution that enabled Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. However, his record on balancing the budget and welfare reform needs an asterisk. And, sadly, under his leadership, the GOP quickly lost its footing and became part of the problem in Washington.
Under the Contract with America, Republicans promised a vote on 10 key issues in the first 100 days of GOP control. Gingrich kept that promise and held votes on every one. Unfortunately, his actions assured that two of the most popular items would fail: a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and term-limits.
Some members favored a two-term limit. Others favored a three-term limit. Most wanted to keep their jobs for life. By allowing votes on several different versions, members could assure their constituents that, yes, they voted for term limits, while none of the bills received the majority needed for passage. The same game was played with the balanced budget amendment. It ‘s the oldest game in Washington. Gingrich had learned it well.
To Gingrich’s credit, Republicans passed some recisions to the 1995 budget and reclaimed some money that had not gone out the door. However, when Congress passed a budget that would eventually reach balance, he got rolled by Bill Clinton, largely because he didn’t prepare members for a government shutdown and he was not committed to staying the course.
When Republicans caved, spending went up, not down. There was no attempt to reform entitlements. To make matters worse, Clinton got three new entitlements in the deal.
The truth is neither Gingrich nor Clinton is responsible for a balanced budget (as they claim). After a couple of years, the deficit went down temporarily because of the unexpected revenue from the dot-com bubble and the closing and selling off of our military bases.
The welfare reform bill did reduce the rolls temporarily because of the perceived work requirements. However, this reform bill contained something called “maintenance of effort.” That means, even if there is only one person left on the welfare rolls in the entire country, we cannot cut the amount of our welfare spending. What’s the point?
Gingrich not only lost his nerve when fighting Clinton over these things but let the old-guard Republicans ramp up spending. He was so obsessed with holding onto power that he began punishing the conservative revolutionaries elected in1994 who tried to hold the line.
Dr. Tom Coburn, who was part of the revolution, detailed the Gingrich collapse and the coups that eventually led to his resignation from Congress in his book “Breach of Trust.” It should be must-reading for every citizen.
Apart from the spending issues there are other positions Gingrich took that could not in any way be called “conservative.”
After the ’94 election, he helped Democrats push us into the World Trade Organization. In 2000, the night before the vote that gave China preferred trading status, PNTR, he went on “Nightline” to argue in favor of de-linking China’s horrendous human rights violations from the trade issue.
Gingrich has consistently supported pro-life issues. However, as speaker, he often used these issues to divide conservatives and get support for liberal bills that, under normal circumstances, would never pass.
He watered down the Property Rights Protection Act (part of the Contract with America) before the vote and stacked his “Speaker’s Task Force on the Environment” with Republicans who had been handmaidens of the left. As a result, there were no meaningful reforms of our environmental laws during the Gingrich era.
I could go on, but it is little wonder why so few of the people who served under Gingrich are supporting his run for the presidency.
Many conservatives say they won’t vote for Romney because he did not govern liberal Massachusetts as a conservative. Unfortunately, the same case could be made against Gingrich when you examine how he ran the House of Representatives.
Paul has been the more consistent conservative on spending issues. Santorum has been the more consistent conservative on social issues. The truth is we don’t have anyone who has been a consistent conservative on all issues in this race.
Gingrich’s finish in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado’s nominating contests proves that voters are beginning to focus on his record, not his rhetoric.