When Newt Gingrich Fought For Conservatism Against Republicans

Craig Shirley President, Shirley & Banister Public Affairs

President George Bush went for a jog. A phalanx of reporters were at the ready with note pads and cameramen, film and videotape whirring. When he was asked what he would do to clean up the White House mess, the president smirked and pointed to either side of his torso as he ran by and remarked, “Read my hips.” He was mocking the “read my lips” solemn promise he’d made to the American people a little over two years earlier. In this gesture, he revealed that the tax pledge was just a cynical campaign ploy. No one would ever truly trust George Herbert Walker Bush again.

A Bush aide dejectedly told Newsweek, “The public is not laughing.”

Newt Gingrich went on NBC’s Today with Deborah Norville. She asked him if he was aware of things that Bush was not aware of to justify his opposition of higher taxes. Gingrich replied, “Well, maybe we have a slightly different perspective.” The subtlety of class warfare within the GOP was lost on no one. The Independent, a London paper, said, “In its next phase, over the coming week, the budget impasse may turn into a simple, brutal battle between the parties. But so far it has been more illuminating to see it as a Republican-Republican quarrel: Bushism versus Gingrichism; George against Newt.” Of Gingrich’s ambitions, the paper expanded, proclaiming, “His many enemies say his ambitions are far-fetched: to become the first Republican Speaker since 1955 and to reclaim the Reagan legacy, as President Gingrich, by the end of the century.”

Gingrich was soaring among his people in Washington, but his campaign in Georgia was in sick shape. Because of the protracted negotiations, he was still in Washington, still debating the budget as of the last week in October like most everybody else. Few times had Congress stayed in session this late, this close to the elections.


The final-final- final budget deal had been voted on, and again the majority of House Republicans—including Gingrich, of course—voted against it. Even with the advantage of time and motion, the Bush White House had brought only a few Republicans over to their way of seeing things. Forty-seven GOPers sided with Bush and 126 sided with Gingrich. Nonetheless, it passed. The final vote on the Bill With No Name was a squeaker, 228–220, again, another major embarrassment for Bush, despite the outcome.

Hatred for Gingrich and the conservatives was now widespread in Bushland. The Democrats were enchanted that all the debate over the new taxes was on the right side of the spectrum and inside the GOP.

“It’s a crazy time and a lot of people are irritable,” said Ed Rollins. “They [the Bushes] can only hate one of us at a time. One week it was Saddam Hussein, one week it was Newt Gingrich, and me today.” Rollins had been audaciously telling GOP House candidates to run against the Bush White House.

Bush personally tried to fire Rollins from his post at the NRCC but could only wish that he could fire Newt from his in Congress. There was some idle speculation that Gingrich might challenge Bush in the 1992 party primaries. The phrase “civil war” was used over and over to describe the ugly split in the GOP. It was even reported that Bush had refused to shake Gingrich’s hand.

Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift, Tom DeFrank, and others leveled Bush: “He made incomprehensible jokes. He was strangely eager to please even those who were fighting him, and powerless to punish defectors. As in the bad old days, he looked goofy. In the resulting chaos in Washington . . . a Bush League of stumblebums . . .” John Cochran of ABC said, brutally, “[Bush] got his head handed to him.” Washington columnist and funnyman Mark Shields was telling a joke around town: “George Bush is in a room with Saddam Hussein, Moamar Kaddafi and Newt Gingrich and he’s got a gun with two bullets. What does he do? He shoots Newt Gingrich twice.”

Again, rumors cropped up that the Bush White House was attempting to oust Gingrich as Whip. But Democratic congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee said that Gingrich’s maneuvers had been so complete, “he has become de facto speaker of the House.”

This is an excerpt from by Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative.

Perspectives expressed by op-ed writer are not the views of The Daily Caller.