- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 1999

Newt Gingrich is back, feisty, fearless and forceful as ever, ready to go into battle against the forces of big-government liberalism and engage in hand-to-hand political combat with Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Breaking his long, self-imposed silence on politics, the Georgia Republican sat down with me the other day to talk about politics, the 2000 elections, some regrets about the past, and to show he can still throw big political punches with the best of them.
And he threw a lot of sharp lefts and rights at Bill and Al, arch-enemies of his who were ecstatic when he fell from power after failing to oust the president for lying about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
It was Mr. Gingrich’s first full-scale political interview since he resigned the speakership and left Congress after the 1998 midterm election debacle that left his party clinging to the threadbare five-seat House majority that has barely kept the Republicans in power.
Needless to say, he has nothing nice to say about Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore. These are two unscrupulous men who “will stop at nothing and say anything” for their political gain, he told me.
What really has Newt riled is how the president is using his executive policy-making powers to help his wife Hillary in her New York Senate campaign.
“Never before has the presidency been held hostage to the needs of a Senate race in one state. And that’s clearly what’s going on,” Mr. Gingrich said.
“This is an administration that will release terrorists to help the president’s wife, that will close down the Navy’s training facilities in Puerto Rico, and exploit gays in the military to help the president’s wife,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And if she decides to go after the French vote, I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to give back the Louisiana Purchase,” he said. “He’s always used policy that way. He’s used it to get himself re-elected. Now he is using it to help his wife,” he said.
You do not need to be a rocket scientist to see what Mr. Clinton is doing. Last week he abandoned his 6-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward homosexuals in the military and ordered a Pentagon review of the practice after Hillary came under fire from New York homosexual leaders and she turned against her husband’s policy.
Earlier, when Mrs. Clinton was having trouble with Hispanic voters, Mr. Clinton decided to grant clemency to 16 radical Puerto Rican separatists. When that was not enough to mollify Hispanic leaders, he decided this month to close a U.S. Naval weapons-testing range in Puerto Rico that residents have long complained about, even though the Navy said it was critical to military training.
Soon after Mr. Clinton dropped his “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Al Gore was out of the closet, embracing the president’s about-face after six long years of silence. “He’s decided that gays matter… . He’s now decided that gays are enough of a big factor in Democratic politics, so he’s pandering to gays,” Mr. Gingrich said.
“These are people who will say anything in order to get ahead in politics,” he said. “And Clinton is remarkably like Clinton.”
Mr. Gingrich also took a shot at conservative critics who complain that GOP leaders caved in to Mr. Clinton on this year’s budget battle. His message to these people, whom he calls “smart-aleck armchair quarterbacks” is “quit your complaining and go to work and help elect more Republicans to Congress.”
“If everyone who wants to gripe would go out and help us elect 15 more Republicans instead of griping, we could control spending and cut taxes,” he said.
He says Speaker Dennis Hastert “has done a fine job in a very hard situation with only a five-seat majority,” despite the $40 billion spending increase this year that has frustrated conservatives.
“I’ve been there. I know how hard it is. I had a very hard time in ‘98,” he said, thinking back to a tumultuous year in which he saw his 1994 majority decline even further and took the hit for it. “I’m not going to defend the Congress. I wasn’t comfortable in ‘98. I couldn’t figure out how to get us to where we needed to be, so that’s why I stepped down.”
Mr. Gingrich says he intends to be much more politically active in the 2000 elections. He wants his party to champion “big ideas,” such as allowing workers to put part of their payroll taxes into their own personal retirement investment accounts an idea that strongly appeals to working-class Hispanics and blacks.
He cautions his party that “we should not assume that we can defeat Gore easily. He will be a tough, tenacious opponent and has the unions behind him.” He also strongly warns that if the GOP does not aggressively reach out to Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing minority voter bloc in the country, it risks becoming “a permanent minority party.”

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide