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Friday, December 16, 2011

Giving The Newt His Due

In last night’s debate, Newt (Newton Leroy) Gingrich acquitted himself of the charges of misconduct in regard to consulting for Freddie Mac.  He was, in fact, a private citizen at the time and free to do as he pleased and make as much money as he pleased.

During his term as Speaker of the House, 84 ethics charges were filed against Speaker Gingrich, mostly dealing with finances.  The House Ethics Committee sanctioned him, by a 395-28 vote, with a 300,000 fine, the first time in history a speaker was disciplined for ethical wrongdoing.
Gingrich acknowledged in January 1997 that “In my name and over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were given to the committee.”  Most of the charges were dropped, in one case because there was no evidence that Gingrich was still violating, as of the time of the investigation, the rule that he was found to have violated in the past.  The one charge not dropped was a charge claiming tax-exempt status for a college course run for political purposes. In addition, the House Ethics Committee concluded that inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented “intentional or ... reckless” disregard of House rules.

Special Counsel James M. Cole concluded that Gingrich violated federal tax law and had lied to the ethics panel in an effort to force the committee to dismiss the complaint against him. The full committee panel did not agree whether tax law had been violated and left that issue up to the IRS. In 1999, the IRS cleared the organizations connected with the “Renewing American Civilization” courses under investigation for possible tax violations.

One can’t help wondering whether the GOP machine might be behind the challenge to Gingrich’s presidential run.  In the summer of 1997, several House Republicans attempted to replace him as Speaker, claiming Gingrich's public image was a liability. The attempted “coup” was led by conference chairman John Boehner, the current Speaker of the House and Republican leadership chairman Bill Paxon of New York.  According to their plan, then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay,  Boehner and Paxon were to present Gingrich with an ultimatum: resign, or be voted out. However, Armey balked at the proposal to make Paxon the new Speaker, and told his chief of staff to warn Gingrich about the attempted coup.

On July 11, Gingrich met with senior Republican leadership to assess the situation. He explained that under no circumstance would he step down.  If he was voted out, there would be a new election for Speaker, which would allow for the possibility that Democrats—along with dissenting Republicans—would vote in Dick Gephardt as Speaker. On July 16, Paxon offered to resign his post, feeling that he had not handled the situation correctly, as the only member of the leadership who had been appointed to his position - by Gingrich - instead of being elected.

Gingrich’s “Contract with America” was historic, addressing issues such as welfare reform, term limits, tougher crime laws, and a balanced budget law to more specialized legislation such as restrictions on American military participation in United Nations missions, and a cut in the Capital Gains Tax.  He and Congress delivered on the 100-day promise, as scheduled.  Gingrich went toe-to-toe with former Pres. Clinton, even holding out on a government shut down – and won.  He was a tough fighter.  That’s why so many Conservatives remember him. 
We’re glad to learn that he was not a “crook.”  But the fact still remains that he openly supports government-subsidized housing, and climate change (even though during his tenure as Speaker of the House, he opposed Clinton’s environmental agenda and has gone on record as saying he would close the EPA).  Gingrich had switched from teaching history at West Georgica College to teaching geography and was instrumental in establishing an interdisciplinary environmental studies program at the school.

Gingrich would give Obama a run for his money.  He would go on the attack against Obama’s policies, at least those he doesn’t himself support, and not back down.  He’s a tough negotiator.  But then, so is Rudy Giuliani.  Fiscally, Gingrich would be our man.  On other issues, such as illegal immigration, he’s too soft.  His involvement with Freddie Mac, though it was perfectly legitimate – he broke no laws – is still of enormous concern to Tea Partiers.  Subsidizing housing on the backs of taxpayers would enlarge the government whose size he says he wants to reduce.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the original Community Reinvestment Act legislation of the Carter years are what brought us to the brink of and over the chasm of economic calamity.

He admits he would cross the aisle – just as every other moderate has done.  Although, when he crossed the aisle, he  delivered a credible number of political bruises before getting what he wanted.  Seeing some obviously moderate Republican, aisle-crosser names among his chief opponents in the GOP rehabilitates his image somewhat.  One of the reasons the GOP bounced him out of the House was they were afraid his image was scaring off Republican voters.

Actually, it was the Media, not Newt, that did that.  Does anyone in the average American corner give a hoot – or a newt – whether he uses too many “I’s” in his sentences?  We just want whatever candidate is out there to support our agenda and get the job done.  He can plume himself with all the laurel wreathes he likes.  The current White House has a surplus of them.

What we won’t let him – or any other candidate – do again is campaign on the Conservative platform – and then chop it up and use it for alternative fuel or subsidized housing.

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