The Spectacle Blog

Coburn and Newt

By on 1.25.12 | 3:39PM

My friend Quin Hillyer, still firmly leading the charge of the anti-Newt brigade in this piece, has presented as an exhibit of Newt's alleged lack of conservatism a post from our friend Jim Geraghty over at National Review Online

I've read the excerpt presented as "evidence." To which all I can say is: huh?

Several things leap out here that need a reply.

First….Newt is being criticized for trying to marshal a majority on a rule, one of the most common tactics in a parliamentary body. He showed … gasp!… temper. My, oh my! Eeeeeek! Temper in a politician? You mean like those famous tempers cited by contemporaries in writing about presidents like George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman? Or Speakers of the House like Tip O'Neill or Sam Rayburn? The latter never had a problem upbraiding President Franklin Roosevelt, the leader of his own party. On one occasion when he felt FDR was ignoring him, the plain-spoken Texan Rayburn exploded: "Looky here, Mr. President! By God I'm talking to you. You'd better listen." Rayburn was a saint next to Republican Speaker "Uncle Joe" Cannon, known for his iron hand and highhandedness. Gingrich doesn't even get on the charts.

When I was a young staffer the House was rife with stories of members with hair-trigger tempers and balloon-sized egos. In fact, Washington not to mention politics in general is filled to overflow with people exhibiting this trait. To single out Newt Gingrich for this isn't puzzling, it's absurd.

In fact, not discussed in the Coburn example is something that rings all to familiar to anyone who has worked in the House or Senate. The Speaker is presented as saying:

"Those of you who had planned to go to John Kasich's wedding on Saturday are not going. No one is going anywhere until we get the votes we need to pass this rule."

Let's leave poor now-Governor Kasich out of this. But it is safe to say that this story, at least as presented here, skirts a perpetual problem on Capitol Hill. Once members arrive fresh from their first election they shortly become aware that they are, for however long, members of what in the Senate is referred to as "the world's most exclusive club." A high school classmate of my mother's was elected to the House in 1960 and served 18 years. Referring to the little icons of Jesus Christ once seen on car dashboards, the said congressmen were treated like "little tin Jesuses," their every whim catered to, their every wish someone else's command.

The dirty little secret Coburn doesn't touch on in this excerpt is that an outing like this is a hugely popular deal with House members. For that matter so are funerals of colleagues. Charted planes and buses, flowing liquor, pretty girls… a party for the Club. For Newt Gingrich to look his Caucus in the eye and threaten to hold them so they couldn't go to Kasich's wedding is… within the club… a damn serious threat. An offense. The nerve that members would be forced to stay and do their job instead of partying at a club wedding! Who did Newt think he was?

Last but not least… as things have worked out, citing Lindsey Graham as some sort of pillar of conservatism in relationship to Newt Gingrich is as hysterically funny as it is preposterous. The man Rush Limbaugh calls "Lindsey Grahamnesty" gets to rule on Newt's conservatism? The guy who obsequiously questioned Sonia Sotomayor and then voted to place her on the Supreme Court… is Mr. Conservative? Believe that and I have the proverbial bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Finally… and I must say regretfully… is Tom Coburn himself. He's a great guy. And certainly for the bulk of his career has been there when needed. But not, as is the charge against Newt, always. (Or for that matter Rick Santorum. One of the reasons Santorum is an ex-Senator is furious conservatives in Pennsylvania voting against him because of his support of Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey and also… big time… earmarks.)

If Newt Gingrich is the liberal charged, then alas Senator Coburn faces exactly the same charge, as seen right here from our friend and colleague Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. Said ATR in their opening on Coburn:

Senator Tom Coburn today released a $1 trillion tax hike plan. It's not tax reform, it surrenders on spending, and it's outside the conservative mainstream.

Ouch.

So, in other words what we have here is a cite by my two friends that leaves out all manner of issues that would give a fuller picture of Newt in this instance. Worse, it uses two members, now senators, who have run smack up against the same problems of allegations of liberalism being used to whack Newt.

One question for Quin and Jim.

The incident cited says there were eleven people who stood tall in voting against Gingrich on this rule. Coburn and ten others.

Was one of those staunch eleven conservatives Rep. Mike Castle from Delaware?

If not, what in the world were Quin and Jim doing supporting RINO Rep. Castle over conservative Christine O'Donnell in 2010's Delaware GOP primary? Doubtless she would not have let herself be intimidated by the Speaker of the House as apparently their favorite Mike Castle was unless -- unless he was one the Coburn Eleven. Was he?

Just asking.

He says with a grin!

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