Sure, the media transformed the shutdown into a caricature of Gingrich as being coldhearted. But it was Clinton's unwillingness to negotiate on tough budget constraints pushed by the Republicans that led to the short shutdown of government operations. And Gingrich's alleged complaint about the airplane landing was taken out of context. He pointed out that Clinton had avoided the GOP leadership on board for the 20-plus hours of the flight. Budget negotiations could have been taking place. Then the president simply lacked manners in shunting the Republicans out the back of the plane.
In reality, the shutdown was a concerted action by Congress to do what most Americans wanted them to do, rein in big government.
Further, it was Gingrich's capital gains tax cut that helped to spur the economy for which President Clinton is now so widely credited. And it was Gingrich who forced issues of balanced budgets and welfare reform. It may have made him a poster boy for the left, but it ended up helping make the Democratic president's legacy appear grand.
As for the impeachment issue, which is also noted in many articles as having hurt Gingrich, well, that too is a stretch. Gingrich was savvy enough to know that the effort to remove Clinton would be unpopular. But his members demanded action, and he followed what he felt was a constitutional duty, if clearly an ill-conceived political action.
For all he did, his reward from an ungrateful bunch of spoiled Republicans was a demand that he walk the plank for having lost a few House seats in the 1998 elections.
To his credit now, he has publicly stood by embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert, despite the fact that he would be well justified to hang him out to dry.
Just remember, Republicans: What goes around comes around. This brilliant leader has had eight years to reinvent himself. With a party begging for brains and action in place of cocky half-wits and slick-looking talking heads, Newt Gingrich is looking more and more like the hero he truly was.
He's still the GOP's true Mr. Speaker.
Matt Towery served as the chairman of former Speaker Newt Gingrich's political organization from 1992 until Gingrich left Congress.