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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a senior editor at National Review, and a leading conservative pundit. The views expressed here are his own.

August 11 (Bloomberg) — Newt Gingrich is telling Republicans not to fear a government shutdown because the last one went so well for them. This is pure revisionist history, and they would be fools to believe him.

Some Republicans are urging the party to refuse to back any legislation to keep the government operating unless funding for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is stopped. Other Republicans say this tactic will fail, citing the conventional wisdom that the government shutdowns of 1995-96 helped President Bill Clinton and hurt congressional Republicans.

Gingrich is trying to buck up the Republicans who favor this tactic, while reinterpreting an important episode in his career that has usually been taken to be a big mistake. He says the shutdown advanced Republican aims, making it possible to restrain spending and balance the budget.

The former Speaker of the House is off message, or rather is revealing a contradiction in the political strategy of his current allies. Their public line is that any shutdown would be the unfortunate product of Democrats’ obstinate refusal to give in to the Republican demand to defund Obamacare. But it’s not easy to convey that message when prominent Republicans are saying that shutdowns are good for their party.

More important, Gingrich’s current spin on the events of 1995-96 is just wrong. The election of a Republican Congress in 1994 put government spending on a lower trajectory, as the election of a Republican House did again in 2010. Whether the shutdowns contributed to that result is a different matter.

A Surrender

Almost nobody back then believed it. Democrats thought that they had won the battle over the shutdowns, and that the agreement to end them was a Republican surrender. Clinton made a point, in his next State of the Union address, to criticize Republicans for their strategy. It was an applause line. Clinton’s job-approval numbers started to rise as soon as the shutdown fight was over, and they never really sank again.

Republicans thought they had lost, too. A minority of them thought that they should have kept the government shuttered longer, and that Gingrich and Senate Republican leader Bob Dole had caved. (Gingrich was widely reported at the time to have told unhappy colleagues, “I melt when I’m around him,” referring to Clinton.) Most of them decided that bringing on a shutdown at all was a mistake.

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • docb

    Well said.

  • Dominick Vila

    The fact that shutting down the government and defaulting on our obligations is being debated by Republicans highlight how devoid of responsibility and a vision the party of Lincoln has become. Instead of fearing Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or the Muslim Brotherhood we should beware of the enemy from within.

    • Mark22063

      Guessing you are reffering to the one in the White House.

      • Dominick Vila

        Blaming the opposition for the misdeeds or irresponsibility someone demonstrates seldom gets the guilty party very far. In any case, Barack Obama is not a member of the party of Lincoln.

      • CrankyToo

        That’s not a very astute guess. I’m guessing you’re a devotee of Fox Noise, the opiate of the asses.

        • BillP

          Can I borrow the “the opiate of the asses” phrase? I like your use of the Marx (Karl not Groucho though Groucho could turn a good phrase too) phrase.

          • CrankyToo

            Well, I have to tell you Bro, my “Pride in Authorship” factor on that particular phrase is a solid 10. But it is apropos, and I would love to see it go viral, so what the hell, consider it yours.

          • BillP

            I will go forth and spread it. Thanks

          • CrankyToo

            Give ’em hell, Squire. I’ll see you at the polls next year.

  • Allan Richardson

    Remember that Star Trek episode in which three Ferengi businessmen crashed their shuttle near Roswell after traveling back in time to 1947? Maybe they have infiltrated our business community and then our political parties, primarily the Republicans.

    Non-trekkers: Gene Roddenberry created the Ferengi alien race as a parody of the NBC bean counters who gave his original series such a hard time and jerked its time slot around until they cancelled it. That episode revealed that they even believe their AFTERLIFE depends on how much money (or debt) they had when they died: rich Ferengi go to their Heaven, and broke ones go to their Hell. And by the way, they are NOT a parody of rich Jews, just of rich crooks in general. The other Jewish cast members would not have stayed on the series if Roddenberry were making racist remarks about Jews.

    • jrj1701

      Very interesting thought. It seems that the corporate view has got things out of balance. One thing I have seen lots of complaints on is CEOs that have been in charge of failing companies being fired and leaving with multi-million dollar severance packages. Viewing it from a Ferengi’s point of view it would make sense, wouldn’t be right, but it would make sense.

      • Take a look at Cisco Systems John Chambers. He is a billionaire. He had a 6 year avg pay of 36 mil

        2009 – Total compensation of $12,788,498, which included a base salary of $375,000, a cash bonus of $2,031,000, stocks granted of $10,372,500, and other compensation worth $9,998.[16]

        2008 – Total compensation of $18,767,149, which included a base salary of $375,000, a cash bonus of $3,002,802, stocks granted of $6,442,000, and options granted of $8,938,260.[17]

        2007 – Total compensation of $12,801,773, which included a base salary of $350,096, a cash bonus of $3,500,000 and options granted of $8,944,000.[18]

        Then look at a stock (chart) It was 80 in 98 99. Today its 24
        If you bought the stock almost anytime since 1998 you are down to even. 15 years of down to breakeven and he makes a billion?

  • Pamby50

    Shutting down the government is the worst idea but then republicans haven’t come up with a new idea in a long time. Even the crazies at the town hall meetings have no clue what the shut down will do. If they manage to shut down the government for over a month, they run the risk of taking this shut down in the holiday season. The party that stole Thanksgiving and on there way to stealing Christmas. Grinches all of them.

  • howa4x

    If the Republican party takes advise from Newt they will be in bigger trouble than they are now. He suffers from magical memory about his speakership. His multiple wives are a testament to his religious values which are limited at best. He was also under investigation for improprieties. What a guy! This is a great time for the moderate republicans to show that they have the courage to lead and back down those on the fringe who’s safe districts lend to their radical behavior. Mainstream republicans have to realize that the tea party doesn’t have their best interests in mind only their fervent belief system. One day the Koch bros will tire of their tea party toy and just not fund them anymore. Then it will be like a Chinese fire drill for them to scramble for the limited cash that will be available. Already the TP is held in poor esteem by moderates, women, gays, independents, minorities, and Latinos and young people. Now a larger portion of senior citizens are beginning to view them with suspicion as well as all republicans. A shutdown of the government led by the TP will only drive a bigger wedge between them, the republicans and everybody else. I know that the republicans win by scaring people to vote against their own interests but now they are preparing to do it to themselves.
    What a world, what a world!