Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Reformer with Results?

Newt Gingrich urges a back-to-basics approach for the GOP -- that is, a return to reform.

He tells me that John Boehner, the new majority leader, was there at the Creation, which is to say, the creation of the Contract with America--and so, by extension, that of the current Republican majority in Congress. "You know, we were elected originally as a reform movement and we were pretty open about lots of people participating. And I think it got to be less and less open. And now . . . I think you're going to have a group of people who are listening a lot more and encouraging their members to have reform ideas."

In Mr. Gingrich's view, the problem with the Tom DeLay era in Congress was that Mr. DeLay was "the Hammer." He demanded loyalty above all else, and the Republican conference was too top-down. The party governed to maintain power, and so lost touch with its electorate. And here he adds a warning: "Our natural majority in the country is a very reform majority. It's the taxpaying majority. It's the people who do not trust Washington, do not like seeing their money wasted, are not impressed with pork--if anything, they're irritated by it. And either the House and Senate Republicans are going to move substantially in the next few months or they're going to run a very real risk of losing the fall election."

Gingrich carries a good bit of baggage from the 1990s -- some of it deserved, much of it not -- but I'd be hard-pressed not to vote for him if he sought the Republican nomination in 2008. (Not that my vote matters here in Pennsylvania's late primary.) At the very least, the party would benefit from having him, or his ideas, in that race.

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