Thursday, April 7, 2011

Newt and the shutdown: He's changed his mind about it

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Perhaps to no one's surprise, potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has gradually shifted his assessment of the 1995 and 1996 government shutdowns that occurred while he was Speaker of the House. Here's a timeline breakdown of how and when he has changed his mind about how the shutdown went, according to Talking Points Memo:

1996: He tells the Los Angeles Times that the shutdown was "clearly wrong" and that he would "consciously avoid it" if he had it to do over again.

1998: In his memoirs, Lessons Learned the Hard Way, he expresses regret and quotes Ronald Reagan (of course)—

"Reagan rejected this idea with a comment I wish I had understood better at the time," he wrote. "The conservative activist who told me that story was convinced that Reagan would have won such a showdown. For fifteen years I agreed with him, but I was to learn something about the American people that too many conservatives don't appreciate. They want their leaders to have principled disagreements but they want these disagreements to be settled in constructive ways. That is not, of course, what our own activists were telling us. They were all gung ho for a brutal fight over spending and taxes. We mistook their enthusiasm for the views of the American public."

2000: In a talk at the Hoover Institute, he shifts slightly, saying that the shutdown was one of his failures, but also had a sunny side—

"It hurt us," he said. "On the other hand, it cut $3 billion out of federal spending."

Later that year, he tells the New York Times Magazine that he still regrets it—

"I run this game film in my own head constantly," Gingrich said. "If we had come in more reasonable, we would have been sucked into the city, we would have been negotiated into normalcy, like George Bush in 1990. You could see them gradually being absorbed into the Democrats, into 'This is reality; how can you fight reality?'"

2004: Recognizes mistakes made and also recognizing that the shutdown was potentially unwinnable right out of the gate in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article.

2011: In a February Washington Post article, refers to the shutdown as a "historic success" for the Republicans, preserving the GOP majority for a decade more and forcing a balanced budget. He gives a similar assertion of the shutdown to the American Spectator and meets with House freshmen to tell them not to be intimidated by the idea of a possible 2011 shutdown. How inspirational.

(Fun fact: Wikipedia already has a placeholder for an "anticipated United States federal government shutdown of 2011" page as part of a list of notable shutdowns.)

This switcheroo is similar to his U-turn on Libya and shows that the man can't seem to completely hold an opinion on something because, if the opportunity arises, he's more than happy to change his colors. Maybe we should call him Chameleon instead of Newt.

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