In the days before the Republican Congress sent Republican President George Bush the most expensive new entitlement since Lyndon Johnson left office, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed a marriage of convenience for the GOP.
The bride to be? AARP, the seniors’ lobby. "I think this is one of the great historic moments," Gingrich gushed of the impending enactment of an AARP-approved Medicare prescription drug bill.
He even brought the new sweetie home to meet the kids. "Gingrich, speaking Wednesday to the regular weekly gathering of conservative leaders chaired by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform," reported Cox News Service, "called the AARP endorsement of the GOP bill ‘a shift in tectonic plates’ for politics, providing the Republican Party new opportunities to win votes with the elderly.
"The Georgia Republican," Cox reported, "told the group he has spent years reaching out to the AARP in the pursuit of Medicare reforms because the organization is one of the most powerful in Washington, with 35.5 million members over the age of 50."
The idea is that retirees (including those in the swing state of Florida) will be increasingly sympathetic to a Republican Party, aligned with AARP, that provides government benefits to retired people.
Future elections would become bidding wars in which Republicans and Democrats vie to see who can do more for those who want more from government.
Gingrich is right about one thing: This is historic. In days of yore, before Newt went hoary, he rode the backbenches of the House spitting acid-laced invective at party elders who sold out his principles. He once famously accused then-Senate Finance Chairman Bob Dole of being "the tax collector for the welfare state."
But now Newt spits invective at what he calls "obstructionist conservatives." These are today’s backbenchers who labor to prevent their entire party from becoming the tax collector -- or debt monger -- for the welfare state. They are led by principled legislators -- such as Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana, John Shadegg of Arizona, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Tom Feeney of Florida and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
"Obstructionist conservatives can always find reasons to vote no," Gingrich wrote in the Wall Street Journal on the eve of the drug vote, "but that path leads right back into the minority and it would be a minority status they would deserve."
"Deserve," he said!