Tony Blankley

It's largely going to be gridlock. President Obama will veto what he doesn't like. The Republican Congress will not have votes to override the vetoes. The GOP will not destroy itself "shutting down government as the Gingrich Congress did in 1995." Republican congressional leaders will try tactfully to instruct the tea party members on political reality: If unemployment is still above 8.0 percent in 2012, either party might be in a position to take the White House. Below 8 percent, Mr. Obama probably gets re-elected.

As Newt Gingrich's press secretary and close adviser from 1990 to 1997, I believe these conclusions are premised on a simplistic misreading of 1994-98. By this theory, Newt, believing he could persuade the public to follow him anywhere, overplayed his hand. Newt shut down the government over budget and Medicare disputes in the summer and winter of 1995. Instead, the public blamed Newt and the Republicans -- while Bill Clinton crawled out of his terrible tidal hole on the backs of the GOP, and that was the end of the "Newt Revolution."

After the 1994 election, neither Mr. Clinton and the Democrats nor Newt and the GOP had sufficient political power to accomplish much by themselves. Mr. Clinton couldn't move a dogcart up Capitol Hill, while Newt didn't have the 218 votes he needed to pass a House Health and Human Services appropriation -- with controversial abortion language in it. It was the last vote before the August recess. Only at the last minute did Nancy Johnson, the liberal Republican congresswoman from Connecticut (and early supporter of Newt before he even was minority whip) manage to help Newt scrounge up the needed critical votes.

And so it went all summer and fall in 1995 -- with Mr. Clinton deciding when to unleash part of the AFL-CIO's $35-million political advertising account (in constant dollars, closer to $100 million today) to win various battles for public opinion. The GOP had no such political money available.

Regarding the notorious government shutdown: Technically, Republicans passed two bills that would have kept the government open for a few weeks -- a process that is routinely followed at the end of budget periods. Had Mr. Clinton routinely signed them, the government would have stayed open until larger disputes had been resolved.

But it is more than fair to say that Mr. Clinton's press secretary was much happier with the national impression that Newt "shut down" the government -- and that Newt's press secretary was less pleased.

Usually, it is the majority in the House that is seen to have the power of the purse strings. But Republican members chickened out and didn't vote with their leadership because the GOP House leadership made a hash of our natural advantage.


Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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