Dec 16, 2011

December 10, 2011: Sold, Exile on K Street, The Gingrich That Stole Christmas.

Flashback: it is 1994 and the Rescumlicans have taken control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. At the head of the Rescumlican delegation was a brash young Congressman from Georgia who, after recruiting a bunch of right-wing ideologues and fashioning his so-called “contract on America”, ran a national campaign designed to gain control of the House. The campaign while proving successful produced an agenda that was not so successful. Only one of the ten planks in the platform that was the “contract” ever passed the house, none became law. For instance, the part calling for term limits became an almost immediate casualty.

Gingrich, having engineered the electoral upheaval, became the new incoming speaker. Not only did he prove brash, arrogant, and a bit uninformed, but--in what proved to be an early version of “unitary theory of government” immediately upon taking hold of the speaker’s gavel began to behave as if he were the center of government, as if he were in London and was now, as titular head of the house, serving as Prime Minister. It got so bad that at one news conference President Clinton had to remind the assembled reporters, if not the nation, that “I am still relevant”.

In a prophetic gesture, on an early January morning in 1994, as Gingrich was about to take the Gavel former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder of Colorado led a small band of Democratic members up the steep steps leading to the upper reaches of the capital dome, stepped outside and over the dome of the capitol building stretched a huge “sold” sign. It was a telling if brief demonstration in protest of what was surely to come.

Within hours a certain reprobate named Tom Delay would be elevated to the position of majority Whip of the house and would assist the speaker in forging alliances and otherwise selling the interests of the people to the lobbyists of K street. For 12 long years ’we the people’ were sent into exile as the k-street lobbyists took control of the national government.. What followed was not only massive rounds of deregulation, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which allowed the banks to re-enter the stock market, but the shutdown of the federal government over Baby Huey’s attempt to gut Medicare, massive cuts in domestic spending, ending with the Jack Abramoff scandals. In fact, in the waning hours of Rescumlican control in 2006, long after Baby Huey was driven from office by his own party, one of the last acts of the malignant majority was an attempt to do away with the 40 hour work week.

In the weeks following the election of 1994 leading up to the holidays, as the shadow of Baby Huey stood over Washington and about to assume power, I entitled an entry to my journal “The Gingrich that Stole Christmas”, referring to what he was about to do to the already tattered social safety net. I remember one of the national journals had a similar revelation and stole my headline. It was, like Congresswoman Schroeder’s gesture, prophetic.

In fact Baby Huey, in his short stint as Speaker, had embroiled himself in so many confrontations, so many unpopular legislative initiatives and so much scandal (his book deal with Rupert Murdock being one of them) that he had by the late 1990’s become a poster child for Democratic Party fundraising. The mere thought of giving “le infant terrible” any additional leverage proved so repugnant and the Rescumlican majority had dwindled to such narrow margins that the leadership of the House--Bob Michaels of Illinois and a young John Boner of Ohio among them--approached the speaker after the 1998 elections and informed him that they would vote with the Democrats if he stood again for Speaker. Gingrich, by then perhaps the most reviled politician in America, promptly resigned not only his position as Speaker of the House, but his seat in congress. From there he assumed new roles as professor, writer, and yes, lobbyist.

Much has been made of Gingrich’s marital difficulties and the circumstances surrounding his separations and divorces but, like Herman Cain, much of this fixation obscures the greater point. Gingrich, for all his professorial manner, all of his attempts to portray himself as a “policy Wonk” in the mold of Bill Clinton, is pure fa├žade, for underneath the image lurks an agenda of pure greed. It is this greed, symbolized by congresswoman Schroeder’s trek up those steep stairs to the roof of the capitol, that is the real point. Under Gingrich, the House became a cesspool of corporate greed on the make with the House serving as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporate Cartels. It wasn’t so much the hypocrisy of Gingrich presiding over the votes to impeach President Clinton over an affair with a White House intern while the Speaker was having his own affair with his own intern, as much as the hypocrisy of presenting a Rescumlican agenda of economic opportunity while in the process selling the people’s government to the very forces that will bring the end of such opportunity.

Like Nixon, Gingrich is banking on the half-life of the collective memory of the country and is busy out and about refurbishing his “image”. But like the “new Nixon” this represents simply another Madison avenue make-over in service of the larger agenda which is to service the interests of the national and international cartels at the expense of the larger national interests and, perhaps, the republic itself.

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