March 15, 2007

Novak: DeLay Not Likely To Endorse Gingrich

Apparently, Tom DeLay has some small amount of bitterness over his change in fortunes. According to Robert Novak, DeLay will blast Newt Gingrich as morally flawed, ineffective, and dishonest when DeLay's book hits the shelves next week -- setting back Gingrich's presumed plans to run for President:

Newt Gingrich's attempted phoenix-like rise from his own political ashes to a presidential candidacy will run next week into a harsh assessment by his former House Republican colleague Tom DeLay. The former majority leader's forthcoming memoir assails Gingrich as an "ineffective" House speaker with a flawed moral compass.

Gingrich is not the only erstwhile political ally to feel DeLay's wrath. In "No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight," DeLay is even more critical of his predecessor as majority leader, Dick Armey, and assails George W. Bush as being more compassionate than conservative. Even the man DeLay handpicked to succeed Gingrich as speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, is accused along with Gingrich and Armey of opening the door to the Democratic purge of DeLay. ...

In describing Gingrich as an "ineffective Speaker," DeLay writes: "He knew nothing about running meetings and nothing about driving an agenda." He adds: "Nearly every other day he had a new agenda, a new direction he wanted us to take. It was impossible to follow him."

DeLay also declares that "our leadership was in no moral shape to press" for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Writing well before Gingrich's admission for the first time last week, DeLay asserts: "It is now public knowledge that Newt Gingrich was having an affair with a staffer during the entire impeachment crisis. Clearly, men with such secrets are not likely to sound a high moral tone at a moment of national crisis."

DeLay refers to Armey as "so blinded by ambition as to be useless to the cause" and a "poor leader" who had "few fresh ideas." He adds that Armey "resented anyone he thought might get in the way of his becoming speaker of the House. Beware the man drunk with ambition." He pleads innocence in his version of the failed 1997 coup attempt against Gingrich and accuses Armey, after realizing that he would not succeed Gingrich, of telling the speaker that DeLay was plotting against him: "He had lied to cover his ambitions, betraying both his movement and his fellow leaders."

So I suppose Gingrich can scratch DeLay off of the short list for keynote speaker at his rallies, right?

As Novak notes, this explains why the 1994 revolution foundered in its goal to reinvent government. Many believed that the showdown between Bill Clinton and Gingrich over the 1995 government shutdown kneecapped the conservative momentum, but if one reads DeLay, it started at the very beginning. The leadership of the GOP vanguard had little cohesion, differing priorities, and a lack of organization that doomed the project from its inception.

I'm not sure what DeLay intends in this memoir except a measure of dog-in-the-manger effect. His own activities in the House after 1994 have drawn considerable criticism from conservatives. Jeff Flake, one of the small-government conservatives still left of the coalition, accurately describes DeLay's contribution as limited to redistricting, lobbying, and pork distribution -- none of which exactly meshes with the 1994 revolution either. DeLay has obvious anger issues springing from a lack of effort among Republicans -- including Gingrich, Dick Armey and his protege, Denny Hastert -- to protect him after a politically-motivated indictment by Ronny Earle, a complaint with more than a little merit. He undermines his own argument somewhat by hauling out all of the dirty laundry and making clear that he didn't exactly act like a team player, either.

Will this hurt Gingrich if he decides to run? Probably, and probably in significant fashion. Many conservatives still wonder what happened to the opportunity to reshape government after 1994, and DeLay's memoirs will probably bring some answers. Joe Scarborough, in his memoir Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day, had similar arguments about Republican leadership, which lends DeLay some credibility.

Gingrich's admission of the affair will not temper this kind of criticism from the Right, especially as it reflects on his competence as a leader. That issue had already been noted among CQ readers and other pundits, and DeLay's accusations will have some traction there. It will be very interesting to see how Gingrich responds, and whether Dick Armey will join the fray.


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