Perhaps William Shakespeare said it best: “All’s well that ends well.”
Or maybe it was Bob Dole who said it best: “Whatever.”
Shakespeare was a writer with a great sense of irony. Dole is a politician with a great sense of the inevitable. We could probably drag out the comparison with a quote from “Julius Caesar” and a line or two from Dole’s check-card commercial, but why bother?
The point is, the much-publicized, peaceful ending to the attempted overthrow of Newt Gingrich in the U.S. House of Representatives was an illusion, a postponement of the intraparty political bloodletting that will eventually drive the speaker of the House from power.
“Et tu,” Dick Armey!
The anti-Gingrich movement launched by rebellious House Republicans did not fizzle because the speaker persuaded them to embrace his leadership but because the rebels lacked an effective battle plan. When Gingrich lieutenants such as Armey and Tom DeLay decided to throw the insurgents to the wolves, the coupsters had no fallback position; they had to reach for the white flag.
To all appearances, Gingrich prevailed. He dumped an associate who sided with the rebels and extracted humiliating apologies from others who consorted with the enemy. Then he beseeched his colleagues for unity, invoking the Bible and the Gospel of the Balanced Budget. He played the role of healer, lifting himself above the slings and arrows, forgiving the transgressors, reasserting his commitment to the party’s highest goals.
Gingrich’s apparent magnanimity provided magnificent cover from the truth: Like so many politicians, Gingrich is petty and vindictive, a man dedicated to the proposition that those who defy him must be punished.
Thus there was something of a Catch-22 aspect to the effort to dethrone the speaker: The coup failed largely because of fear that the coup would fail. Few were willing to endure Gingrich’s wrath if he survived the attempt to oust him.
Does anyone suppose that Armey and DeLay engaged in all that post-rebellion groveling because it was good for their souls?
Some might imagine that Gingrich has strengthened his position by dodging this latest bullet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It has become painfully clear that Gingrich’s speakership has no purpose beyond self-preservation. The speaker himself, for that matter, has no purpose beyond self-preservation.
At a time when the Republican Party - especially the GOP majority in Congress - desperately yearns for leadership, Gingrich shows little disposition to lead. He is bereft of vision, devoid of ideas. He seems to cling to power for its own sake, not for its usefulness in achieving goals.
There was a time when Gingrich spoke for Republicans and conservatives in a voice that inspired and motivated, that propelled the ambitious agenda of a political movement determined to change the way government operates in this country. Now he has nothing to say, nothing to contribute to the public dialogue except the empty rhetoric of abandoned ideals.
If Gingrich truly cared about the Republican Party, about the congressional majority - if he truly cared about the future of the nation - he would voluntarily surrender the speaker’s gavel. If he were half the leader he pretends to be, there would be no need for palace coups; he would abdicate the throne.
Once the irresistible force of the conservative movement, Gingrich now stands as an immovable obstacle to the movement’s success.
Armey, DeLay, et al. - these so-called leaders who flirted with the dump-Gingrich forces only to run for cover in the end - could have better served their party and their constituents by applying their considerable clout to the task of unseating the speaker. Gingrich will not return their misplaced loyalty - and each day that he remains in power is a day that is lost in promulgating the Republican Revolution.
The Newt Gingrich situation will end well only when it … well, ends.
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