Political Animal


January 04, 2013 9:07 AM Tips From the Coach

By Ed Kilgore

Just can’t resist this story from The Hill’s Justin Sink:

Newt Gingrich warned Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he risks losing control of his conference without a more coherant strategy.
“He can’t keep thinking the way he’s thought the last few months without having a disaster on his hands,” Gingrich, a former Speaker, said during an interview on MSNBC.

This is a man who knows both disaster and how to come back like a recurring nightmare innumerable times.

Gingrich said Boehner needed to carefully craft a legislative agenda in advance of coming high-profile negotiations on the sequester and debt ceiling.
“They could build a strategy in the House, they could think through the next 2 years,” Gingrich said. “They have total control, that’s the way the House operates.” Gingrich pointed to the fight over Sandy relief as an example of Boehner not acting strategically. Under fire from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Peter King, Boehner later pledged a two-part vote on the Sandy relief bill.
Gingrich suggested that the House should have simply passed portions of the bill that dealt with immediate storm relief, providing political cover for a fight over the legislation’s future disaster funding.

But here’s the best part:

Gingrich also suggested that Boehner and President Barack Obama needed to hold more respect for one another in high-profile negotiations, citing even his often-tortured relationship with former President Bill Clinton as an example of how negotiations could proceed more efficiently.

As I recall, Gingrich’s relationship with Clinton culminated in Gingrich becoming a national pariah, a failed effort to remove Clinton from office, Democrats winning an extremely rare six-year-midterm election, and then Gingrich’s resignation from the Speakership and the House. Yes, it’s a fine template for Boehner.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Emma on January 04, 2013 9:17 AM:

    From Gingrich's mouth to God's ear.

  • c u n d gulag on January 04, 2013 9:27 AM:

    Newt neglected to mention, that to help release some stress, Boehner should do what he did - go and bang a few female interns behind your wife's back, until you feel better.

  • jpeckjr on January 04, 2013 9:39 AM:

    These two men have very different personalities. Even if Mr. Boehner wanted to follow Mr. Gingrich's advice, it is not in his personality to do it. What Mr. Gingrich wanted for himself was to become famous, to be as important on the national stage as he believed he deserved to be. Grandstanding and over-reach are the essential strategies for achieving this goal. He had those skills and he became famous (recurring nightmare -- great description, Ed!)

    What Mr. Boehner wants for himself is to be popular and well-liked, as likable as he believes he is. Trying to make everyone happy is the essential strategy for achieving this goal, but it is not possible to make everyone happy. The Tea Party wing cannot be made happy. Even if they got everything they want, they would not be happy. Trying to make everyone happy is the key to failure, not the secret to success.

    Laying out a legislative strategy is good advice, if what you want to be is effective. But an effective strategy requires saying "no" to people and you can't say "no" and still be popular.

  • mellowjohn on January 04, 2013 9:47 AM:

    "As I recall, Gingrichís relationship with Clinton culminated in Gingrich becoming a national pariah, a failed effort to remove Clinton from office, Democrats winning an extremely rare six-year-midterm election, and then Gingrichís resignation from the Speakership and the House. Yes, itís a fine template for Boehner."

    works for me.

  • boatboy_srq on January 04, 2013 9:51 AM:

    Gingrich, whatever his flaws, at least had a dramatic rise to power, and presided over a GOP majority he was able to lead, guide and (at least to some extent) control. He and DeLay both proved well capable of controlling and guiding their fellow Congresscritters toward concrete policy goals, and sidelining dissenters within their ranks. Boehner has had neither the rise nor the support for such: his Speakership has been marred by infighting within the GOTea and by enough dissent from the Teahadists to undermine any attempt at actually governing. The recent "fiscal cliff" antics are proof enough of that: Boehner was able to present a viable (if odorous) proposal, but was withdrew it and walked away from negotiations when a plurality of the House GOTea refused to support it.

    Unless Boehner gets much tougher with his party, and finds some means to rein in the Teahad, Gingrich's advice is absolutely useless. The agenda he recommends, and the party unity he envisions, are impossible so long as the Teahad remains committed to a federal government small enough - and poor enough - to contain within a teacup and pay for nothing but Congressiional salaries and the DoD.

    OTOH, I cannot see any House GOTea member doing any better in the circumstances. The only individuals capable of leading a united faction are the ones least interested in governing, and most likely to immediately and unequivocally denouncing any policy plank (including one they had previously touted as The Only Solution to a given issue) the moment any Democrat - especially the President - is persuaded to agree with them. The rest of the House GOTea is insufficiently extreme to side with the Teahad at the outset, and insufficiently moderate to accept Democratic proposals without some pork - er, persuasion.

  • Decatur Dem on January 04, 2013 9:54 AM:

    If Gingrich has become a "national pariah", no one has thought to inform the Sunday talk show bookers.

  • Josef K on January 04, 2013 9:54 AM:

    Yes, itís a fine template for Boehner.

    If only. As jpeckjr noted above, Boehner apparently lacks Gingrinch's aggressive personality and ideological coherence. The facter Boehner crashes, burns, and is buried as a footnote in Congressional history, the better.

  • cmdicely on January 04, 2013 11:26 AM:

    As I recall, Gingrich's relationship with Clinton culminated in Gingrich becoming a national pariah, a failed effort to remove Clinton from office, Democrats winning an extremely rare six-year-midterm election, and then Gingrich's resignation from the Speakership and the House. Yes, it's a fine template for Boehner.

    You seem to have missed the word "even" in the excerpt this responds to, or maybe you missed the fact that, for all those things, even the Gingrich-Clinton period was a time of more substantive legislative accomplishment between Congress -- necessarily including the House -- and the President than Boehner's term has been.

    And I think Gingrich is basically right on what the difference is: under Gingrich, the Republican caucus still had substantive policy goals which resulted in them sometimes being able to reach compromises on substantive legislation in between political stunts. Under Boehner, the caucus has slogans to chant and enemies to vilify, but no vision to advance toward.

  • digitusmedius on January 04, 2013 11:30 AM:

    Is it just because Gingrich and his fellow sociopaths cannot remember the past or is it part of their disease that the past is reconstructed to fit their self narrative?

  • T2 on January 04, 2013 11:48 AM:

    the longer Gingrich is given a national stage for his opinions, the better it is for Democrats. One only has to look in the way back machine to see that it was Newt Gingrich who touched off the GOP's decent into a party of nuts and blowhards. Each and every TeaParty crazy owes a few brain cells to Gingrich.

  • Peter C on January 04, 2013 12:02 PM:

    The con always works best when it is fresh. It's stale now, thankfully. This is why only Ryan is on the rise; his con is still (relatively) fresh, and even it is smelling worse and worse. Happily, I can't think of any 'new' cons emerging; everything Republican is pretty stale these days.

  • boatboy_srq on January 04, 2013 4:32 PM:

    @digitusmedius: Gingrich didn't preside over sociopaths to begin with. It took Shrub to bring the current crop of sociopaths to power. I think you give him too much credit: the fault lies not in our "stars" but in our sources - Armey, Koch, Adelson et al, who bankrolled the lunacy and pushed it from behind the scenes, have been far more damaging, yet performance artists like Gingrich keep getting all the credit.

  • Doug on January 04, 2013 8:23 PM:

    All the "easy" Republican policies, those that sorta maybe perhaps SEEM to make sense, have been done. What policies remain are gutting SS/Medicare, gutting the EPA, drowning the DoD in unneeded funds and even more tax cuts for the obscenely rich. And people are (too) slowly catching on that Republicans really, really DON'T care about the deficit or debt.
    I, for one, can only hope that Speaker Boehner DOES try to craft a legislative agenda based on those policies and get them passed by his caucus.
    It'd be soooo nice to have Speaker Pelosi back...