Thomas Sowell

The enthusiastic reception given to a speech by Newt Gingrich at a recent meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee has revived speculation that he may enter the presidential nomination race, after all.

It seems hard to believe that Gingrich has been out of politics for more than a dozen years. He has certainly not been out of the media that long -- and it is doubtful if he has overlooked the political value of maintaining his name recognition.

At one time it was thought that Newt Gingrich was permanently washed up after leaving the House of Representatives under a cloud of "scandal." But "scandal" is one of those words that the media use in a very inconsistent manner.

Bill Clinton's tawdry affair with Monica Lewinsky was usually referred to in the liberal media as "the Lewinsky matter" -- not the Lewinsky "scandal."

The word "scandal" seems to be reserved for people the media don't like, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich was high up on the list of people that liberals didn't like. He was second only to Ronald Reagan as the most effective conservative leader of his generation.

Gingrich engineered the Republicans' stunning takeover of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Moreover, he followed through by carrying out the conservative agenda on which the Republicans were elected.

That was a big difference from the more recently elected -- and then repudiated -- Republican Congress.

What about Newt Gingrich's "scandals"?

The biggest scandal, according to the media, was that he "shut down the government" by cutting the budget, so that there was not enough money to operate.

In reality, the budget passed by the House of Representatives when Newt Gingrich was Speaker provided more money than any previous budget in the history of the nation. But liberals define a "cut" as any appropriation that is less than what was asked for, regardless of whether it is more than anyone ever appropriated before.

President Clinton asked for more money than Speaker Gingrich was willing to give him, so Clinton shut down the government and said that the Republicans had shut down the government.

He knew he could depend on the liberal media to buy his spin and repeat it endlessly on the evening news broadcasts and Sunday talk shows.

The Republicans did themselves no good by their inept statements trying to defend what they had done. To counter ringing rhetoric by the Democrats that these "cuts" would hurt the starving and the downtrodden, Republicans made wooden speeches about statistics, comparing "OMB figures" with "CBO figures."

Not surprisingly, Clinton and the Democrats won that confrontation going away, and Gingrich was tarred as a heartless man, denying food and shelter to the needy. The real scandal in all this was that the Republicans couldn't get the marbles out of their mouths to let the public know the truth -- and they should have known that the media were not about to puncture the Democrats' hot air balloon.

The second Newt Gingrich "scandal" was his violation of one of the many red tape requirements put into the law to supposedly clean up politics. Politics has not been noticeably cleaner since these laws were passed but someone is always tripping over the technicalities, so as to supply the media with "scandals" -- if those who trip are not liberals, in which case it is just a "matter."

Finally, Newt Gingrich admitted to having an extra-marital affair. This was equated with Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky "matter," even though Gingrich told the truth in public while Clinton lied under oath in a court where he was being sued.

Many a man has found some woman irresistible when he shouldn't have -- and, in a field of candidates crowded with saints, this would be enough to permanently disqualify Newt Gingrich.

But this does not seem to be the situation we are faced with. Conservatives waiting for the candidate of their dreams can give us President Hillary Clinton in the meantime. Among these alternatives, Newt Gingrich doesn't look bad at all.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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