Want a Speaker who knows how to get things done? Want a Speaker who is smart as a whip? Want a Speaker with a proven record of success under the most trying of conditions? How about one who knows when to press an advantage, and when to compromise? Want a Speaker who actually learns from his mistakes? Or a Speaker who has exhibited a true willingness to work with a president of the other political party without sacrificing the core goal of his Party? Then elect Newt Gingrich as the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
First, some disclaimers. I did not agree with everything Newt did as Speaker from 1995-1999, when we served together in the House; and, I do not agree with every position he has taken since he resigned the speakership and his congressional seat amidst a scandal a decade and a half ago. Newt did not endorse me when I sought a return to the House in 2014.
However, Newt Gingrich remains one of the singularly brightest and most competent public figures in the United States today. He can write a book, or deliver a seminar to a gathering of top CEOs or political leaders, on the most substantive of issues; from health care reform, to technology futures. There are few others alive today in the political arena who can do this — and none among those known to be considering, or being considered as a replacement to John Boehner.
While all 61 occupants of this constitutionally-established post have been members of the House of Representatives, the Constitution does not limit the pool of candidates to this college. Indeed, it would present a wave of fresh air to break with tradition in this regard; and, after all, 90% of a Speaker’s duties and responsibilities have nothing to do with representing his or her home district. And then again, Newt has served many years in the House; he knows how it works and how to keep a very fractious majority together even as he fought a very adversarial minority Party. In Speaker Gingrich, we would have the best of both worlds – fresh air and experience.
Think back. The last time we had a Speaker who actually accomplished notable goals as Speaker, and as a direct result of his hard work to forge a working majority and convince a President (who was not his friend) to come along, was Newt Gingrich. Structural reform of the House of Representatives, the Contract with America, a balanced federal budget, welfare reform, and tax cuts are just some of his more noteworthy accomplishments. Granted, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who served as Speaker from January 2007 to January 2011, can claim passage of significant legislation during her tenure – the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank, for example — but these were easy legislative victories considering the fact that she enjoyed a Democratic majority in the House, a similar situation in the Senate and, most importantly, a President of her own Party who strongly pressed for passage of those precise measures.
Sure, Newt has been out of public office for over 15 years, but he has hardly been out of public service. His schedule is busy as ever; full of speeches, articles, interviews, consulting gigs, and appearances at political events. He is every bit the Energizer Bunny today as in years past. He has been active in more issues than he was during his terms as Speaker, for the simple fact his responsibilities do not include the many day-to-day duties with which the occupant of that office must concern himself.
Yes, Newt can be stubborn, wrong, egotistical, and aloof. He is no Everyman. At the same time, Newt has navigated the roadways between Wall Street and Main Street with consistent success; and he possesses as deep an understanding of what makes America tick as any current office holder, at any level of government. For Newt there would be no learning curve. Yet, there have been learning curves for Newt; and unlike many of his peers, he actually has learned from them.
Whereas two decades ago when Newt would deliver a speech, he might identify six main themes, each with five subparts and three minor themes. Then, through the course of an hour-long speech, Newt would and could follow each and every branch of his complex presentation. His audiences, of course, rarely could; even though they would gather he knew what he was talking about and it all somehow made sense. Today, Newt’s speeches are far more precise and aurally legible. He has learned how to simplify complexity far better than in his previous incarnation.
Despite their many partisan differences, Newt Gingrich and his counterpart at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue during the tumultuous years he served as Speaker – Bill Clinton – share much in common. Most importantly, they both possess an ability to fight for those goals their Party demands, but also a willingness to recognize when the time is ripe to join forces to accomplish something the country needs, and not be concerned that the other will claim credit for it.
Newt has learned the hard way that the world does not revolve around him. But Newt knew then, and he knows now, what makes the world revolve and what needs to be done to make it continue to do so, in a way that no other potential candidate for Speaker even comes close to being able to claim.