By: Dave Franklin

Newt Gingrich has jumped into bed with Hillary Clinton, figuratively speaking. The two icons of nineties political dysfunction held a press conference together in which they announced their joint effort to get the federal government meddling even more in health care. The proposal that bureaucracies in Washington, DC take over our medical records is just another in a long tragic list of bungles by Newt Gingrich.

In Clinton and Gingrich, some see a political metamorphosis away from the 1994 election, in which the GOP captured control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Without considering that Newt Gingrich was never one of them, the proof of which is exemplified in his support of federally funded health care for illegal immigrants, many conservatives are worried about these new signs of a betrayal. But what did the man that now stands with Hillary Clinton ever really accomplish in the first place?

Newt Gingrich managed to squander 1994’s natural victory over the witless ideology of the Clinton Administration so blatant in its first year of office. Clinton had brought a team of people to Washington that could mess up a two-car parade, and that included his "co-President" wife. Democrats were destined for defeat in the following election, and so came the ’94 voter’s "temper tantrum". Newt Gingrich did not win for Republicans in 1994 -- everything so hideously wrong with the man elected President by 43% of the vote in 1992 did.

Before the end of the 104th Congress, Gingrich had made himself the subject of widespread disdain, complaining about a ride in the back seat of Air Force One, employing politically foolish rhetoric about letting medicare "wither on the vine", and botching the budget debate. Americans still scratch their heads wondering how Bill Clinton managed to get re-elected in 1996. But deep down, they know Newt Gingrich was part of the problem.

Newt may continue to claim it was his own "genius" in 1994 that secured a successful mid-term election for the GOP ten years ago, despite that voters now consider his contract with America representative of so many things disingenuous about the man. Such falsely perceived self-shrewdness explains how Gingrich now appears to think he has a shot at the Presidency in 2008. That ambition is an echo of the political tomfoolery, which haunted Clinton’s opponents while Newt was Speaker of the House.

Gingrich recently told the Associated Press that he might run for President in 2008. He was in Iowa when he said that. That means he’s running, sure as the sun rises in the morning. So Gingrich’s federal health records effort with Mrs. Clinton is more than a small curiosity.

How does a Republican think that joining an initiative with Hillary Clinton on health care is going to advance his stature in the GOP? Only someone thoroughly out of touch with grass roots conservatism would believe such a thing. Gingrich being out of touch is likely to be the case, but let’s assume for the sake of proving it that he is not. Reconsider the question based on this false assumption.

We could conjecture that Gingrich did this to help Hillary self-destruct. By appearing with Newt Gingrich, Clinton certainly ruffled feathers more than a little bit among Democrats, who she will be courting for nomination in 2008. But estimating that Newt was trying to derail Clinton for the Democrat primaries requires two things; one, he is savvy enough to both design and lure her into a trap, two, he doesn’t want Hillary to be nominated.

Newt Gingrich is not astute and he didn’t set a very good trap for Hillary. In the 2008 primaries, Hillary Clinton won’t pay near the price for standing with Newt, as he would for standing with her. Among Republicans, in political terms, Clinton is both hated and feared. Among Democrats, Gingrich is hated but he is surely not feared. Republicans will not forgive Newt Gingrich for dancing with Hillary. But Democrats won’t care about it enough to change their vote in the primaries and they positively would love to see Hillary running against Newt. His poor ability in political calculation is good cause for that.

Given that Gingrich believes in this proposal about the federal government taking control over medical records (scary thought), joining forces with Hillary Clinton on it can only serve to give cover for her in the 2008 general election. Everybody remembers Hillary-care and hated her ideas, this Gingrich should know. Yet he has now taken the health-care weapon out of his arsenal were he to face her in a general election.

Newt Gingrich alienates the GOP’s base by this joint initiative with Hillary Clinton. His ideas about federalizing medical records are anathema to both conservatives and civil libertarians. He proposed and supported federal funding for illegal immigrant health care. And were he to be nominated, Gingrich has immunized Hillary from her early nineties health care debacle. As if Republicans needed a demonstration of it, the Gingrich-Hillary episode proves that he is worse than unsuitable as a conservative leader.

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Dave Franklin works in telecommunications and has over ten years of experience as a technology consultant for government agencies, including the Department of State and the Joint Staff. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.

Dave Franklin can be reached at:

Published in the May 13, 2005 issue of  Ether Zone.
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