Newt Gingrich took advantage of his podium at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans last week to claim that Barack Obama was "the most radical president in American history." Gingrich didn't offer any detailed critique of President Obama's policies -- though he did link the two "s" words: "socialism" and "secularism."
It is useful to remember that Newt's definition of socialism is fairly encompassing. He once critiqued the views of his fellow Republican John McCain by saying, "The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument."
If you consider McCain to be a socialist, then I suppose it's not much of a stretch to call Obama one too.
But what Gingrich really seemed fixated on in his New Orleans speech is that President Obama is trying to pass the same platform he ran on. President Obama seems to believe, to Gingrich's astonishment, that if the majority of the American people are foolish enough to elect a president and a Congress whose ideas are different from Newt's, then public policy should nevertheless reflect those election results. Gingrich portrays the Obama message thusly: "I run a machine. I own Washington, and there's nothing you can do about it."
Coming from Newt Gingrich, this is pretty rich. Let's recall what he has said about 1995, the year he became Speaker of the House: "... with a relatively modest 230-205 majority, we lulled ourselves into the expectation that the liberals would decide they had to accept the judgment of the people and adjust their programs accordingly." Remember, that was a time when Clinton was still President -- but Gingrich still believes the Democrats should have rolled over and played dead for him.
Although he's attacking President Obama for listening to the judgment of the people rather than the unhappy minority, Gingrich certainly isn't promising that the Republicans will suddenly get bipartisan religion if they have a good November at the polls. Here's his plan: "Stage One of the end of Obamaism will be a new Republican Congress in January that simply refuses to fund any more of his programs ... If EPA gets no budget, it can't enforce cap-and-trade" (or the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act, for that matter).
Not a lot of room for bipartisanship or reaching across the aisle in
that scenario, is there? If that doesn't sound a tad like "Once we own part of Washington, there's nothing he will be able to do about it," then I'm deafer than I thought.
Newt has never before seemed to have any problems with winner-take-all politics, as this quote shows: "I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around a campfire but are lousy in politics."
I think it's fair to say that we know what kind of politics we'll see from the Republicans if they capture one or both houses of Congress this fall. It'll be a repeat of 1995, when they shut down the federal government in a fit of pique. Now that's radical!