November 7, 1998
Can there be a more amusing spectacle than watching the Republicans wash their dirty laundry in public? Shocked by the poor results in last Tuesday's elections and their unpreparedness before such a tally they resorted to the age-old technique of cutting a few heads and bringing to the fore an unimaginative leadership. Meantime, disgruntled social-conservatives will join the ranks of the populists à la Patrick Buchanan, and the East-Coast pro-business moderates will find solace in a familiar name, George W. Bush, the Governor of Texas. Fine. But forever dull.
Think about His Eminence Henry J. Hyde who, when readying his 81-question letter to President Clinton, was expecting his good friend Newt Gingrich to deliver the 15 to 20 additional seats to the House that would give him an iron-clad majority for voting the articles of impeachment. With no alternative strategy, he went ahead with the letter, "in the most genteel way," repeating 81 times the question, "Do you admit or deny..." No witch hunt here, of course. Representative Hyde is a man of such high respect and rectitude, an institution in and by himself. Referring to his good friend, the Speaker, he simply said, "Leadership takes credit when things go right. They ought to take the blame when things go wrong." Admirable rectitude indeed! Exits the Speaker.
Newt's other friend, Louisiana Representative and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Robert L. Livingston, went on TV to praise Mr. Gingrich's Churchillian qualities and proceeded to declare his candidacy for House Speaker. According to him, the GOP does not need a visionary and revolutionary leader. A manager will suffice. Hoping to fly on his coattails are Steve Largent, the Oklahoma Representative, and a few other young Turks whose only dream is to go back to the Reagan years, emphasizing tax cuts, Social Security, Medicare, and all the other issues that Bill Clinton has so successfully highjacked away from the Republicans. Resigns the Speaker. Enters dullness.
Newt was left with his exit line about "cannibals" that strangely recalled the statement by Jim Wright about "cannibalism." Do you remember, Jim Wright was the Speaker of the House Gingrich almost single-handedly dethroned in the Eighties? What goes around comes around.
Licking their wounds, the hard-core, XXX-rated social conservatives are lamenting that the GOP leadership ignored the real issues of the coming Armageddon, the lack of moral and family values that, if ignored, will destroy our cherished civilization. Abortion, homosexuality, school prayer, the flag burning amendment, and the like. Rid of Gingrich, they want the head of Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader (they can have it, the guy is useless anyway). Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council must be on the phone with Steve Forbes, the millionaire populist who has found new merits in moral values, and James Dobson of Focus on the Family -- to hedge the bets of the Christian Right -- must prod Pat Buchanan, another populist and millionaire, to run for a third time for the presidency in 2000. Add Ross Perot and millionaires are fast becoming the moral majority of the third millennium!
With so much infighting and platitudes one wonders how long the GOP will manage to cling to its thin majority. And with Newt out of the picture this commentator is fuming with despair. No one is left to get one's juices going. I'll tell you, the GOP needs new blood. Let's call back Bob Dole for the sake of laughter and the destiny of the baby boomers.