Tag Archives: Newt Gingrich

Political ‘leaders’ too often become ‘tyrants’

Jay Leeson, writing for Texas Monthly’s Burka Blog, wonders how Texas legislators can stiff their constituents in favor of an agenda being pushed by the state’s second-leading politician, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

He wonders if state senators, for instance, are working for the people who they represent back home or for the lieutenant governor.

Implicit in his essay is the question about whether Lt. Gov. Patrick is running the Texas Senate — a body over which he presides — with too heavy a hand.

Read the essay here.

Indeed, we see this developing all too often. Politicians attain positions of power thanks to the votes of their fellow politicians and then decide that their voice is more important than anyone else’s. It’s a bipartisan affliction that crosses party lines.

A notable Texas politician, Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson, was famous for corralling fellow senators, getting right into their faces and “persuading” them to vote for a bill of his choosing … or else pay the consequences.

Another brief story involves another Texas pol, former Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Combest of Lubbock, who once refused in the 1990s to support legislation dramatically overhauling the nation’s farm program. House Speaker Newt Gingrich wanted him to support it, and pressured him to do so. Combest refused because he said it would do harm to the West Texas farmers and ranchers who sent him to Congress in the first place.

This dance is occurring now in Washington, D.C. Republican leaders want to overhaul health care laws. They have developed an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that has been getting some seriously angry reviews among voters in congressional districts and states all over the country. Senators and House members are hearing about it, too.

Do they vote for their constituents’ interests or the interests of the party leadership?

Democrats exerted the same pressure on their congressional members when they pushed for passage of the ACA in 2010. The law was unpopular out here in the land, but Democratic congressional leaders insisted on approving it. The ACA’s fortunes have turned; Americans want to keep it and they favor it over the alternative that Republicans are trying to shove down our throats.

But GOP congressional leaders won’t be persuaded by silly notions about public opinion or the principle of representing the desires of the “bosses,” voters who elect them — or who can unelect them if they are given the chance.

Political leadership — whether in Austin or Washington — is vulnerable to those who turn it into tyranny.

Yes, Newt … the president can ‘obstruct justice’

I am beginning to think Newt Gingrich no longer should be taken seriously.

He’s the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; at one time he was second in line to be president, right behind the vice president.

Gingrich once voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for, among other things, obstruction of justice. So what does this clown say now? The president cannot commit such a crime because — are you ready? — he’s the president!

The current president, of course, is Donald J. Trump.

Gingrich is an ally of Trump. He has spoken favorably of the president. I get that. However, his remarks to the National Press Club make no sense. He didn’t cite a federal statute that prohibits a criminal indictment against the president. He said that the office protects its occupant from an obstruction of justice charge.

But … didn’t it protect President Clinton? Didn’t it do the same for President Nixon when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him for, um, obstruction of justice?

Newt needs a reminder of history. Indeed, he was part of an event that involved a president who he once accused of obstructing justice. If he continues to ignore history and spout the nonsense he keeps spouting about Donald Trump, then he is talking himself out of any relevance to the current political discourse.

Thank you, mainstream media, for doing your job

The media keep getting a pounding from those who hang nasty labels on them.

Enemy of the people. Biased. Unfair. Mean.

I want to give them a serious shout out for the job they have been doing in reporting some of the most explosive news stories in, oh, a couple of generations.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal … the big guns of the so-called “mainstream media” have served their craft well. They make those of us who toiled in that craft — and are doing so to this day — so very proud.

Donald J. Trump’s tenure as president might be in serious jeopardy. Why? Because big-city newspaper reporters and editors are telling the public what they need to hear about the president of the United States. They are reporting on incidents that could result in charges of obstruction of justice; they are chronicling events and reporting the news to the public that must always be informed about how the government is being run on its behalf.

A former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, said recently — and quite stupidly — that he is “personally offended” by the media. He just cannot stand reading negative news about the president and so, as is customary among some thin-skinned politicians, he blames the messenger. Gingrich ignores the undeniable fact that all of Trump’s wounds — every one of them — have been self-inflicted.

The president himself has labeled the media “the enemy of the American people.” Why? Again, because they are doing their job. They are reporting to the public the mistakes that the president is making. Trump’s senior political adviser, Stephen Bannon, has referred to the media as the “opposition party.” What absolute crap!

Conservative media outlets have waged war against the so-called “mainstream media” for years, using that very term as an epithet against media outlets that dare to tell the truth.

It’s far too early to know where all of this reporting will lead. As the current House speaker, Paul Ryan, has implored, “We need the facts” before making judgments.

I am going to rely on the media to keep presenting the facts. They make me proud. I plan to keep reading … and learning.

Spinning losses into moral victories

Politics has this way of producing victories where none is apparent.

Democrats around the country, for instance, are seeking to turn electoral defeats into a form of winning. It’s a fascinating thing to watch — and it has me shaking my head.

A Kansas congressional district special election produced a Republican victory recently. The Fourth Congressional District seat once was held by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Donald Trump appointed to become the nation’s top spook. Trump won that district over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and it has been in GOP hands seemingly since The Flood.

The Republican who won the seat in the special election did so narrowly. Thus, Democrats are claiming some sort of victory.

Today, voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District are going to the polls. They’re going to choose a successor to Tom Price, who represented the GOP-friendly district before becoming secretary of health and human services; the Sixth District once was represented by none other than the inimitable Newt Gingrich.

A large field is running. It includes five Democrats and 11 Republicans. The top vote-getter needs to win with 50 percent plus one vote to win the election outright. The leader is a Democrat, a young man named Jon Ossoff. Polling indicates he is likely to fall short — barely — of the majority he needs to win. If he doesn’t make it, he needs to face the No. 2 finisher, likely one of the Republicans. The GOP hopes the party will rally behind their guy and elect him over Ossoff in the runoff election.

Still, Democrats — even if they lose this election — are likely to crow about how they damn near flipped that district.


As a progressive-leaning voter myself, I am pulling for an upset in Georgia. I would be glad to see Ossoff score an outright victory by day’s end. A win by the young Democrat clearly would send a message to the president and his Republican friends that they’re likely to have a serious fight on their hands in next year’s mid-term congressional elections.

However, elections determine winners and losers. Candidates need to get more votes than their opponent to actually win. Falling short of the total they need today in Georgia will not stop Democrats from spinning a loss into some sort of moral victory.

As the old saying goes, “Close counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

‘My military’? No, Mr. POTUS, it’s ‘ours’

Some commentators and analysts on MSNBC are getting a bit worked up tonight over Donald J. Trump’s use of the first-person singular pronoun.

Trump was speaking today of the use of the so-called “mother of all bombs” on Islamic State targets in Afghanistan. He referred to “my military” taking charge of the mission and executing it with precision.

My military? Umm, no sir. It’s our military, the people’s military, the nation’s military.

Now, to be fair …

Other presidents have done the same thing, taking direct ownership of the office they occupy. Barack Obama was fond of referring to “my national security team,” or “my vice president,” or “my economic team,” or “my presidency.”

I once challenged the former president’s generous use of that pronoun, trying to remind him that none of it belongs to him personally. I also sought to remind him that every single government employee — and they number in the millions — belong to the taxpayers who pay the bill.

That includes the president of the United States of America.

The message I imparted then still applies to the current president.

“My military”? No, Mr. President. The men and women who defend our nation do not belong to you.

They belong to us. For that matter, Mr. President, so do you.

Take ownership, not possession


Another ‘family values’ official takes a fall

Robert Bentley got elected governor of Alabama partly on the basis of his belief in what he defined as traditional family values.

But wait! The Republican got involved romantically with a senior staffer. He got re-elected and then tried to cover the affair up. His wife of 50 years then divorced him after learning of text messages revealing the affair hubby was having.

Now he’s out of office.

This isn’t a huge deal in terms of what it means for the entire nation. Kay Ivey, another Republican, took the oath of office as governor today. State government will go on. Bentley will serve two years of probation and then he’ll disappear from the public stage.

What gives this story its legs, I suppose, is the sight of another moralist/politician going down for the count. We see this kind of thing on occasion.

Two pols stand out in my memory.

Do you remember John Edwards, the former Democratic senator from North Carolina? He used to talk publicly about the love he had for his late wife, Elizabeth, all while he was taking a tumble with a woman who was assigned to put his life story on film.

Then we had the former Republican speaker of the U.S. House, Newt Gingrich, ranting and railing about President Clinton’s sexual misdeeds as he, too, was cheating on his wife with a staffer.

During the nadir of Clinton’s presidency there were candidates for public office who would proclaim their sexual fidelity as a reason to vote for them. Imagine that, will ya? As if that’s something about which you should boast.

Bentley quit just as Alabama legislators began filing impeachment procedures on the basis of evidence that Bentley violated state campaign rules in covering up this episode.

The late President Nixon taught the nation graphically a particular lesson about political scandals. It’s rarely the deed itself that brings the politician down; it usually is the cover-up.

Governor pleads guilty, then quits

There might be a lesson, too, for future politicians to heed. Don’t try to sell yourself as a “family values” champion if you have any predilection to violate a sacred pledge.

Who works for whom in Washington?

Donald Trump thought he could strong-arm congressional Republicans into doing his bidding.

He wanted them to enact a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. GOP lawmakers — namely the more conservative members of their caucus — weren’t budging. Why? I believe it’s because they knew something that the president doesn’t understand: They work for their constituents; they do not work for the president.

When I heard today that Trumpcare went down in flames, I flashed back to another time, in an another era, when another lawmaker decided to stick it in the ear of his congressional leadership.

I recalled former U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, a Republican from Lubbock, who once defied the speaker of the House of Representatives who wanted Combest to back some legislation that he just couldn’t support.

It occurred in the late 1990s. Combest represented a largely rural West Texas congressional district that ran from southern Amarillo all the way to the Permian Basin.

GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich was pushing something called Freedom to Farm, a dramatic overhaul of national farm policy. If memory serves, Freedom to Farm would have drastically reduced the amount of subsidies the government gave to farmers and ranchers to help them through difficult years. We get those kinds of seasons in West Texas, as you might know. Drought has this way of inhibiting dryland farmers’ ability to harvest crops; such a lack of moisture also restricts the amount of grain that ranchers use to feed their livestock.

Gingrich pushed Combest hard to back Freedom to Farm. Combest resisted. He finally voted against Freedom to Farm.

Combest was left to remind the speaker that he didn’t work for congressional leaders. He answered to the farmers and ranchers who elected him to Congress. These folks back home would suffer from Freedom to Farm and Combest wasn’t about to let them down.

I applauded Combest at the time, remarking in an editorial — and also in a couple of signed columns — that he showed guts by defying his congressional leadership and standing up for his constituents.

Congressional Republicans today don’t work for the president. They answer to their constituents at home, the folks whose votes upon which these lawmakers depend. They hate the GOP alternative to the ACA and let their congressmen and women know it in no uncertain terms. Democrats hate it, too.

That is how representative democracy works, Mr. President.

Just ask Larry Combest.

A true GOP leader passes from scene

Today’s congressional Republicans don’t invoke the name of Bob Michel these days.

Why is that? Well, Michel represented another Republican Party, one that knew how to legislate, to govern even when it was in the minority. The former Illinois congressman had friends and allies who happened to be Democrats. The GOP of today is more partisan, angrier, more committed to ideology than to actual governance.

Bob Michel has died at the age of 93. He won’t be feted with a huge state funeral. There might be the perfunctory words of praise for his service to the country.

Actually, though, this man represented a kinder, gentler — and more effective — time in government.

Michel served as GOP leader in the House of Representatives. Then he got pushed aside by firebrand Newt Gingrich, the GOP congressman from Georgia who led that Contract with American revolution that took command of Congress in January 1995.

As Politico reported, Michel often car-pooled to and from work at Capitol Hill with crusty Democratic Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, a fellow Illinoisan. He didn’t shy away from his across-the-aisle friendships.

He also was a fierce champion for President Reagan’s conservative Republican agenda. But he fought hard while maintaining his friendships with those on the “other side.”

If only more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — could mirror the temperament exhibited by Rep. Michel. There actually could be some effective legislation enacted that would become laws that most of us — if not all of us — could embrace.

Battleground state getting bloody


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — I’m getting a taste of what we’ve been missing in Texas.

Since we don’t live in a “battleground state,” my wife and I have been spared the barrage of TV commercials from Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Moreover, since we don’t have any serious statewide races to decide this election cycle, we’ve also been spared some of the amazing down-ballot campaign rhetoric voters are hearing in this battleground.

Darryl Glenn is a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. He is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennett.

A 30-second TV spot from Bennett asks voters if they know who Glenn is. The spot highlights a recording of Glenn saying that he is “running against Democrats.” And, he adds, he is campaigning “against evil.”

Democrats personify “evil,” says the Republican.

Oh, brother.

Twenty-two years ago, a Republican House of Representatives firebrand named Newt Gingrich led a partisan revolution that resulted in the GOP takeover of both houses of Congress.

He instructed his Contract With America brigade to paint “Democrats as the enemy of normal Americans.” The enemy. Not a mere political adversary. The enemy, man.

Now the enemy has morphed — in the mind of another Republican — into evil.

See what we’ve been missing at home? Have you missed it? Neither have I.

Gingrich, Guiliani: spokesmen for marital fidelity?


Donald J. Trump has enlisted two of the more ironic choices to stand up for him as he ponders whether to raise the issue of former President Bill Clinton’s marital difficulties during the presidential campaign.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are two of the GOP nominee’s main men on the subject of marital fidelity.

The irony is rich!

For starters, Trump is now on his third marriage. He has bragged about cheating on wives No. 1 and 2.

Gingrich? Well, let’s see. He, too, is on his third marriage. Calista Gingrich once worked for Newtie when the speaker was railing against Bill Clinton’s affair with the White House intern. It turns out Newtie was fooling around with Calista while he was married to wife No. 2 — and while he was telling Americans that the president had the morals of an alley cat.

Guiliani? OK, there’s this. He’s on his third marriage as well. The first marriage ended in divorce. But then Rudy decided later to seek and annulment from his first wife. Why annul the marriage? Because he’s a practicing Catholic and church doctrine doesn’t allow divorce. So, an annulment wipes a marriage off the books as if it never happened. I guess I should mention that Guiliani also engaged in extramarital activity.

Three politicians. Nine marriages among them. Several extramarital affairs, too.

I truly dislike talking about this stuff in the context of a presidential campaign. Trump, though, brought it up.

He might bring the issue of Bill Clinton’s transgressions to the forefront at the next joint appearance scheduled with the former president’s wife, Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Someone as well will have to explain to me as if I’m a third-grader how Bill Clinton’s behavior really matters in the current campaign for the presidency.

Well … ? How is any of this relevant?