Tony Blankley

What should the congressional GOP's policy objectives be for the next two years regarding federal deficits and prosperity?

Two very different strategies are being considered by authentic conservatives: 1) attempt to govern from their majority in the House and actually try to start the process of reducing the costs of entitlements (most conspicuously Social Security and Medicare) as a path back to prosperity and good jobs; or 2) recognize that the GOP cannot govern without holding the White House, and that, therefore, they should not touch entitlements but merely tinker with discretionary spending and frame the issues for 2012 when they may win the presidency and Senate, as well as hold the majority in the House.

I believe we should follow the first option. The second strategy was championed by, among others, the Wall Street Journal (the esteemed wheelhouse of modern journalistic conservatism) in a Jan. 4 editorial headlined "The GOP Opportunity: The main Republican task will be framing the issues for 2012.

They argued that "Republicans did not run in 2010 to be national accountants. ... Thanks to the failure of the Obama-Pelosi spending stimulus, the voters are once again listening to Republicans on the economy. They should not cede that ground back by turning into mere deficit scolds. ... Republicans can't govern from the House. What they can do is stake out a GOP agenda..."

Undergirding this "issue framing only" strategy is the belief that in 1995, Newt Gingrich and his new GOP majority failed to "govern from the House" and lost the public relations battle by "shutting down the government" in its effort to advance deficit reduction.

As Speaker Gingrich's press secretary from 1990-1997, I was in the middle of that fight. The first argument -- that one cannot "govern from the House" -- is demonstrably false. The second argument was true in 1995-96, but need not be true in 2011-2012.

The GOP in 1995 had three major policy objectives: 1) to balance the budget in seven years, 2) to reform welfare and 3) to pass our Contract with America 10-point plan. President Clinton opposed all three. With Clinton eventually going along, we in fact balanced the budget ahead of schedule, Clinton signed our welfare reform after first vetoing it twice, and about two-thirds of the contract was enacted into law and signed by President Clinton. I would call that "governing from the House." (And the GOP continued to hold its majority in the House for another decade; then, after Bob Dole lost to Clinton in 1996, the GOP took the White House in 2000 and 2004.)

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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