Gingrich, who was all set to debut his new role on CNN's reprisal of "Crossfire" Monday night with a blast on President Obama's hapless effort in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, had a sudden last minute turn of events thrown at him just before airtime. The president was suddenly putting the brakes on an immediate request of Congress to back air strikes in Syria in favor of diplomatic intervention from Russia.
That changeup would likely be enough to leave even the likes of Gingrich tongue-tied. But "Mr. Speaker" made it through his first show reiterating his well-publicized reasons for opposing Obama's move. Gingrich's new role was a reminder in history that takes us back to the years when he and Bill Clinton were engaged in their own "crossfire" -- a battle not for ratings but for high-stakes policy change.
Gingrich landed several tough political punches on Clinton, including two government shutdowns over the budget. Clinton, whose political sophistication then and now leaves Obama in the dust, got the message and worked to create a balanced budget and, behind the scenes, a far more cooperative political climate between the two leaders.
And if the government shutdown was a demonstration of Republican resolve in 1995, the smack down that President Obama has received from Republicans, Democrats and the nation over Syria is, to use his own words, "a red line" and a political humiliation.
Obama's approval ratings have plummeted and there is real potential that should the other shoe drop -- another collapse of the economy -- he could leave office in as bad shape as Herbert Hoover.
While Obama has proved to be aloof when it comes to Congress and suddenly out of touch with public opinion, he is undoubtedly a smart politician. He knows that he can ill-afford an economic decline made up of a protracted budget battle, continued increases in interest rates, a seemingly renewed decline in home sales, and a drop in the equity and bond markets.
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