Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hammer Timed?

When Newt Gingrich went public last week with an admission that he was carrying on an extramarital affair while leading a moral crusade against President Clinton over the Lewinsky imbroglio, most observers assumed this was a tactical decision on Gingrich's part. He preemptively struck - attempting to defuse a potential election season time bomb that could explode in his face down the campaign trail.

While that general assessment is most likely correct, there was also something looming on the near horizon that was speeding up the countdown to critical mass of Gingrich's scarlet A-bomb. Advanced copies of Tom Delay's book, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight had already been sent out, and the book itself would be hitting stores next week. Some of Delay's reminisces likely provided a little impetus for Newt assume the penitent pose. As recounted by Robert Novak:

DeLay also declares "our leadership was in no moral shape to press" impeachment against President Bill Clinton. Writing well before Gingrich's admission for the first time last week, DeLay asserts: "It is now public knowledge that Newt Gingrich was having an affair with a staffer during the entire impeachment crisis. Clearly, men with such secrets are not likely to sound a high moral tone at a moment of national crisis."
I guess that depends on what the meaning of "now" is. While there was widespread speculation about Gingrich's peccadilloes in general, and this affair in particular, it certainly wasn't public knowledge - at least at the time Delay was memorializing his fond recollections.

In addition to Delay gently nudging Newt along the path of contrition, the former Speaker has some other constructive criticisms for his erstwhile House colleague - expressed with Delay's notoriously subtle touch:

NEWT Gingrich's attempted phoenix-like rise from his own political ashes to a presidential candidacy next week will run into a harsh assessment by his former House GOP colleague, Tom DeLay. The ex-majority leader's memoir assails Gingrich as an "ineffective" House speaker with a flawed moral compass. [...]

DeLay admits that the team of Speaker Gingrich, Majority Leader Armey and Majority Whip DeLay, empowered by the 1994 elections, "were not a cohesive team, and this hindered our ability to change the nation." He puts most blame "at Newt Gingrich's door."

In describing Gingrich as an "ineffective speaker," DeLay writes: "He knew nothing about running meetings and nothing about driving an agenda." He adds: "Nearly every other day he had a new agenda, a new direction he wanted us to take. It was impossible to follow him."
According to Novak, Dick Armey gets pummeled even harder. That I'd like to see, but I'll have to rely on Novak or some other reviewer with the intestinal fortitude to actually wade through Delay's tome. But there would be some sort of payoff. I mean, even President Bush gets a lashing:

The memoir ends DeLay's reticence in criticizing President Bush. Deriding Bush's self-identification as "a compassionate conservative," DeLay asserts "he has expanded government to suit his purpose, especially in the area of education. He may be compassionate, but he is certainly no conservative in the classic sense." He also charges that Bush has failed to stress the role of the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, adding, " one at the White House was listening" to his advice.
Not exactly John Henry, but hey, the Hammer's just warming up. Guess that's what happens when you nurture the political version of Frankenstein.

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