At last, the authority of the all-powerful Newt Gingrich has cracked. At a dinner thrown in his honor and attended by conservative journalists, he lashed out at freshmen within his own party and others to his right in Washington.
The spark was a column by conservative commentator Robert Novak, who attended the dinner. Novak had pointed out that Gingrich's new book contains no criticism or even open discussion of affirmative action and quotas.
Glaring at Novak, Gingrich went into a tirade against the column. His voice even louder, more shrill and higher pitched than usual, Gingrich claimed that a chapter of his book did criticize affirmative action (not true) and warned against a "race-based campaign" in 1996--that is, any negative discussion of the government's preferential race policies.
Aides said they had never seen Gingrich as out of control for as long as he was at this dinner. His face red, he wailed that his real problem is conservatives in his own party.
Novak responded with a column recounting the details of the blowup. "In effect," Novak wrote, "the Speaker is saying: Nobody can be to the right of me and be respectable."
Since practically every Republican voter is more conservative than Gingrich, he must shoot right to enforce this rule. But as Novak pointed out, "a major political leader is in grave danger when he assails his base."
Gingrich will try to deflect some of the trouble by tossing a few scraps in the direction of Massachusetts Avenue, Washington's think-tank row. The complicity of the Capitol Hill gang can usually be bought with a photo-op.
What Gingrich cannot control is the opinion of the Republican activists at the grass roots, who include the anti-quota people, the Christian Right, the anti-Mexican bailout isolationists and the anti-green activists.
All these groups are growing wise to Gingrich's sellouts. Here we are eight months into this vaunted "revolution," and not one tax or regulation has been cut. Total government spending is up, not down. Environmental regulations are as secure as ever. Even the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have stopping panicking.
Especially debilitating was the Waco hearings disaster. The final Republican criticisms were softer than the Treasury Department's own report. The Stupid Party, with Gingrich at the helm, passed up the chance to give a black eye to the Leviathan State.
Anyone who has followed Gingrich's career expected this. He made his name by opposing two powerful Democratic politicians, Tip O'Neill and Jim Wright, and was widely credited with their demise. Aside from this, he has always been a liberal: a big spending, big taxing, big regulating, welfare-warfare statist.
Liberals were glad to tout Gingrich and his pals like Jack Kemp as a new breed of scary young radicals. This was the kind of opposition they dream of: partisan on trivial matters, bipartisan on substance.
Gingrich has accumulated massive amounts of personal power within Congress, far more than any previous Speaker, and he wields it to exclude any agenda more radical than his own.
His greatest error has been to make the freshman voting bloc almost impotent through exclusion. Meanwhile, it has become obvious that the only people on whom Newt Gingrich bestows power and glory are liberals and their friends.
Gingrich has spent more time with Washington Mayor Marion Barry than any Beltway conservative and more time listening to D.C. residents than to the conservative-revolutionary American masses.
If Gingrich doesn't reverse himself on abortion, war, race and eco-lunacy soon--and that seems unlikely--he could lose control of his own party, and the freshmen might at last have a chance to fulfill their campaign promises.
So unite, anti-Gingrich forces, and throw out the biggest bum of them all, the betrayer of the November revolution, the man who helps keep our taxes high, our businesses regulated, our people oppressed and our troops and tax dollars overseas.
Resign now, Newt, while you have the chance, or suffer the public humiliation of having your own party toss you down the Capitol steps, to land with Jim Wright and Tip O'Neill in the junk heap of failed liberal politicians.