Sunday, February 27, 2011

Revisionist History

I was working in Washington in 1995 when Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton squared off in the last great government shutdown showdown, and I recall it much differently than Gingrich does in the slick piece of revisionist history appearing in today's Washington Post. But he's running for president, I'm not. I guess he feels a need to re-write events in a way that cast him in a heroic light. But I mark that as the moment the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 died.

Newt doesn't mention the fact that Republicans were so outmaneuvered by Clinton, and so defensive about being blamed for what was called a "shutdown" but was actually just a few days of extra Christmas shopping for federal workers, that they passed a resolution or approved a statement vowing to never again engage in shutdown politics. It was a stupid thing to do -- the statement, not the shutdown -- and I keep wondering if anyone is going to go back and dust that old statement off, now that another possible showdown looms, and waive it in the faces of Republicans.

When people ask me when the Republicans started becoming so much like Democrats, when they ask me when I started drifting away from a party I had supported and carried water for, I often say the turning point came in late 1995. Newt is correct in saying that this new crew of Republican revolutionaries should stick to their guns if another shutdown comes. But it's just not true that he held the line, or won the showdown, back in 1995.

No comments: