How Gingrich (Literally) Cleaned Up Congress

November 15th, 2011 at 1:20 pm | 46 Comments |

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Newt Gingrich’s surge in the polls raises at least an outside chance that the former House Speaker is going to end up topping the GOP ticket next November. Nobody disputes that Gingrich is very smart and a good debater. He also has the sort of high-level political experience (including foreign policy) that Herman Cain and Rick Perry both lack. But it can be said—not unfairly—that he hasn’t really run anything really, really big.

That said, when it came to the biggest thing he has ever run—the House of Representatives—Gignrich did a good job.

Anybody who spends a lot of time around the Capitol Hill knows that until recently the House and Senate Office buildings were stark contrasts. Dirty floors, broken elevators, poor staff services and barely edible cafeteria food predominated in the Upper Chamber.

House buildings, on the other hand, are almost always immaculate, have good-for-institutional-food cafeterias, well-stocked gift stores, and process just about all staff requests quickly. Even in the U.S. Capitol itself, the House side has tended to be noticeably cleaner and brighter than the Senate side. (The Senate has recently contracted out and improved food services so the differences aren’t as stark as they once were.)

And Gingrich, who devoted a lot of time and effort to managing the House–letting contracts, improving services–in the early days of his speakership deserves some credit for this. True, some of the changes pre-date his speakership–Democrats, under pressure for corruption and cronyism, initially moved towards contracting out food services–but it’s still shows that he cares about how things are run.

I have problems with Gingrich but his record managing the House shows that he’s, at minimum, a decent manager.

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46 Comments so far ↓

  • Watusie

    So, basically, he’s a building maintenance man with delusions of grandeur.

  • ottovbvs

    “Gignrich did a good job.”

    I guess that’s why he was literally kicked out of the position of speaker. The job of speaker or minority leader is caucus management not cafeteria management. Newt’s proposed bumper sticker?…..Vote Newt – the greatest janitor in history.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Nobody disputes that Gingrich is very smart and a good debater.
    Ha. Obviously Lehrer doesn’t get out much. Just today TNR had a takedown on Gingrich’s supposed smarts and debate skills.
    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/97429/newt-gingrich-smart

    • Ray_Harwick

      …as did John McWhorter:

      Gingrich’s patterns of speech are largely analytically acute, and sometimes aesthetically interesting, but substantively, they are very often lacking. Language is supposed to be a package that carries substance, but Gingrich is sometimes so pleased with his uninterrupted stream of words, that he mistakes it for an actual flow of ideas.

      …and Andrew Sullivan:

      Only in Washington could such a half-baked, narcissistic, know-nothing blowhard be regarded as an intellectual.

      Sullivan, I think, sometimes forgets about FrumForum.

  • Fart Carbuncle

    “But it can be said—not unfairly—that he hasn’t really run anything really, really big.”

    Neither did Obama, the infamous “community organizer”. However, the media machine got behind him and let him get the nod without vetting him.

    • Volosopher

      I won’t argue your point about President Obama not having run anything big before being elected, but not vetting him, are you serious? I guess you missed the incredibly thorough research by the Clinton campaign attempting to uncover anything nefarious about him during the primary (they didn’t), as well as the endless media speculation about what role the Muslim Brotherhood, Rev. Wright, and Bill Ayers would play in his presidency (answer: none). Obama had published two memoirs by the time he ran for president; it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that we had a better sense of his views on policy and governance than pretty much any other recent presidential candidate. And, especially in The Audacity of Hope, the picture he paints is a very accurate depiction of the kind of president that he’s ended up being. If you or the majority of the public didn’t take the time to read what he’d written, fine. But don’t go pretending that he was some unknown commodity when elected, that tired talking point is simply untrue.

      • Fart Carbuncle

        You’re looking at this through your own liberal lenses. So, your bias is quite large.

  • more5600

    Gingrich cleaned up at Tiffany’s as well…

  • Gus

    Nobody disputes that Gingrich is very smart and a good debater.
    I would dispute that. Gingrich is a second rate intellect who inexplicably has a reputation as an “ideas man.” If a decent debate moderator would follow up on some of the ridiculous assertions he makes during debates, one could easily dispute the good debater part of the equation as well.

  • Carney

    Had the trend gone the other way, the tiresome predictable snarkers above would have of course jumped on it as extremely relevant, and would never have entertained the idea that the day-to-day operations of the House should have been beneath the Speaker’s notice because there’s too much Important Stuff to deal with instead.

    • more5600

      Actually most of us snarkers don’t give a rats ass about how clean the House cafeteria is or was. The Senate was obviously not up to the Houses high standards at one point and I didn’t hear much of an outcry at the time. Gingrich is a self-promoting hack and the fact that the Republicans can find no other place to park there anti-Romney votes is a bigger indictment of the condition of this Republican field then Gingrich’s janitorial skills. /snark

    • ottovbvs

      Sorry Carney just about all the Republican candidates are either well beyond parody or borderline…and you know it just as well as I do. So stop floundering and have a moment of honesty with yourself and the rest of us.

  • Cinghiale

    Anyone can look like an “ideas guy” when they’re standing next to Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.

    And, Eli, what are the odds of a President Gingrich working well with Speaker Boehner, considering Boehner was part of the group that had Newt removed as Speaker? Or don’t we talk about that, now that Newt is moving up in the polls?

  • Drosz

    Honestly, I just don’t see how people could get excited about Newt Gingrich. Let’s just nominate Mitt and get on with it already.

  • think4yourself

    “And Gingrich, who devoted a lot of time and effort to managing the House–letting contracts, improving services–in the early days of his speakership deserves some credit for this. True, some of the changes pre-date his speakership…”

    Really the best thing Eli can say about Gingrich is that he cleaned up the House – a process that started with his predessors?

    I don’t like Gingrich and would never vote for him. Aside from delusions of granduer that his ideas are better than anyone elses and aside from the fact that he facilitated the impeachment of Bill Clinton, while having the very same acts performed upon him at the same time, I could have come up with a better endorsement for him than that.

    For example:
    A) I (Gingrich), as Speaker of the House was able to end the Welfare State and move people from being dependent on the Gov’t to standing on their own (of course I did it with Bill Clinton).

    B) I (Gingrich) as Speaker of the House was able to negotiate with a difficult, liberal President to create the first budget surplus in almost 3 decades.

    C) I (Gingrich) with my Contract with America changed the course of Washington politics and gave rise to the modern Conservative movement. You could say I created the foundation for the Tea Party movement.

    That’s the argument for Gingrinch. I don’t have enough hours in the day to write the reasons against.

    • wileedog

      “You could say I created the foundation for the Tea Party movement.”

      This is an argument for Gingrich?

    • LFC

      Actually (B) would be a total crock and he could easily be torn apart over it. Reduced spending right from Clinton’s first year and the infamous tax hike that cost the Dems control of Congress when what did it.

      Gingrich was the one calling for massive tax cuts without paying for them years before he was given the boot. You can’t claim credit for the balanced budget when you were a main cheerleader for tax cuts that, under Bush, were proven to be a disaster to the budget.

  • Graychin

    I might actually consider engaging Newt as the cleaning contractor for my office building. The big downside to engaging him would be that he’s such an arrogant, know-it-all a-hole, and that I might have to have personal dealings with him. Has any politician ever had a less pleasing personality? And he seems to sow discord wherever he goes – even his own caucus was fed up with his speakership. Discord-sowing is not a good quality in a POTUS.

    Being a capable cleaning contractor is hardly a qualification for POTUS either. It’s not even as impressive as rising through the ranks of corporate America to become the CEO of a chain of pizza restaurants.

    Can you imagine President Newt “negotiating” with Congress when they don’t want to do things his way? And OBAMA gets accused of wanting to be a dictator!

    (This is likely the first of many FrumForum articles in praise of Newt – the latest “non-Romney” to climb in the polls. We have to build the case for supporting the eventual Republican nominee – no matter how awful or ridiculous. Don’t we?)

  • cporet

    The Newt Gingrich presidential campaign in a nutshell: You people are so stupid. Wouldn’t it be better if we did it my way?

  • Oldskool

    He always did look familiar. With a hairnet, he is Cafeteria Lady.

  • armstp

    Funny post… how much of a role does a Congressional party leader really have in terms of the operational function of the House?

  • ottovbvs

    Garcon!… I’m Newt and I’ll be your server tonight….Ok Newt I’ll take the NY strip with the freedom fries.

  • hotbbq

    Nobody disputes that Gingrich is very smart and a good debater.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

    • TerryF98

      To say Newt is a master debater is using one too many syllables, but he’s good at deflecting and obfuscating and speaks fluent politi-babble.

    • TJ Parker

      Correction: Nobody disputes the Newt thinks he’s smart. Standing next to Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, he sounds smart. Even next to Mitt, who has been playing his “dumb as the base” game for far too long that he may even have lost a few IQ points in the process.

  • TerryF98

    Gingrich is a very recent convert from Southern Baptist to Roman Catholic. In the eyes of many fundamentalists, the Pope is still the Antichrist, and “Catholic” is a totally different religion from “Christian”. While they may hate Mormons more than Catholics, at least Mitt Romney was raised Mormon, while Gingrich *chose* to abandon his Protestant faith — making him a renegade, an apostate, a heretic. I think this fact could cause him serious problems that neither he nor the pundits have anticipated.

    Of course, having no ground game and repeated campaign staff implosions doesn’t help either.

  • Marquis

    I wouldn’t say that his ability to recall arcane historical facts indicates that he is someone exceptionally brilliant. It only means that he comes from academia and has a good memory.

  • Saladdin

    There was a great book about Newt and his revolution:

    http://www.amazon.com/Tell-Newt-Shut-Prize-Winning-Journalists/dp/0684832933

  • TJ Parker

    Um, didn’t he leave the house in disgrace?

    Yeah, yeah, I know. He found God. That old Protestant God of his couldn’t restrain his raging libido and ego.

    Personally, I’d LOVE to see Newt become POTUS and watch the Democrats of the Senate filibuster a debt ceiling vote on him. Sauce for the fat round goose and all the squabbling tea party ganders.

  • Candy83

    On a scale of 1 to 10, what is Newt Gingrich’s “likability” from the electorate?

  • valkayec

    Very strange article. Gingrich played janitor to the House building while sliming the halls of Congress with “pay to play” selling of House committee seats and chairmanships to those who garner the largest party donations.

    Great heavens! Talk about descending into the lowest pit of political punditry.

  • hisgirlfriday

    Sounds like Newt really cleaned up AFTER Congress.

    5 months out of Congress and he gets a lobbying contract from Freddie Mac, which winds up paying him between $1.6 and $1.8 million?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-16/gingrich-said-to-be-paid-at-least-1-6-million-by-freddie-mac.html

    Nice graft if you can get it.

  • MurrayAbraham

    “Nobody disputes that Gingrich is very smart …”

    Only in Washington could such a half-baked, narcissistic, know-nothing blowhard be regarded as an intellectual.

    Where I come from Newt Gingrich’s vacant grandiloquence would succinctly be captured in the aphorism, “Diarrhea of the mouth, constipation of the mind”.

  • Solo4114

    People, people. Take a breath. I think the author simply didn’t fully express himself re: the “Nobody disputes…” line.

    What he MEANT to say is “Nobody disputes that Gingrich is very smart and a good debater in comparison to the rest of the GOP primary candidates.” Which, really, is damning with faint praise, unfortunately.

    All of this is irrelevant. Newt is simply the current occupant of the “Challenger” position in the GOP primaries. The media needs a story, and for that, they need to occasionally elevate new (or old) faces to the “ABM” (that’s “Anybody But Mitt”) position. It’s not that the media doesn’t like Mitt or doesn’t expect him to get the nod. But you can’t spend nine months just saying “Mitt’s still in the lead…film at 11.” Soooooo…..let’s bring back Newt! He was always good for a laugh back in the mid-90s!

    Give it 2 weeks and by that point, Huntsman will get a shot at the title. And then another two weeks, and Bachman will be back. And so on and so forth. It’s like clockwork.

  • baw1064

    I noticed something odd about the photo. The map behind the podium shows 48 blue states. Blue is actually the conservative color in pretty much every other country. Apparently it’s only since 1995 that we’ve adopted the current color scheme.

    • Drosz

      Back in the day, i.e. about a decade ago, networks actually alternated between the two colors for each party depending on who the incumbent was.

      Red for Reps and Blue for Dems didn’t take hold until 2000.

  • Rob_654

    I don’t think the guy is all that smart – he was do damn stupid that he lost his Leadership position and was bounced of office – not very bright at all…

    What he is is a good huckster, a bamboozler, a con-man who has established an entire industry around his books, videos and speeches to make money – along with phony awards that will be awarded for a monetary payment…

    This campaign is all about promoting his products and driving speaking fees.

    I hope he wins the nomination – I truly do – because then we’ll see how good of a “debater” he is when he goes up against Obama.

    Let’s not forget – this guy has never won any election outside of his narrow, conservative district…

  • Edoc

    Gimme a break. Gingrich is the latest flavor of the month in the GOP candidate carousel. We will not be treating Gingrich as a serious mainstream candidate next month…

  • pinkelephant

    “Hey, his chamber has cleaner offices and better gift stores!” seems more than a bit like damning with faint praise.

    Newt’s a has-been blowhard.

  • SerenityNow

    So basically Eli has awarded the Newter the Order of the Crossed Push Brooms 2nd Class and the coveted Lunch Lady Silver Snood with Oak Leaf Clusters. High praise indeed. But where is the mention of the damage Gingrich did by segregating incoming freshmen by party during their orientation the better to discourage across the aisle cooperation and collegiality? In so many ways he is the Patron Saint of Congressional antagonism and incipient gridlock not to mention the harbinger of Delay and Boehner.

    The current Republican presidential lineup continues to go round and round even as each aspirant goes up and down. Mitt can’t seem to bust out of the mid-20′s in any poll even as Michelle, Rick, Herman and now Newt have their 15 minutes in the fully upright position. Ron still has his college-age coterie of John Galt wannabees desperately trying to break thru and firmly plant the flag of Libertarianism even as Rick Santorum manfully attempts to rebrand himself as a Google target with less scatalogical overtones. And, of course, there’s still that other Mormon former governor who actually has a brain, a scintilla of conserva-cred and zilch poll ratings, but I digress. What is truly on display here is the total absence by any of the aspirants of a serious reason to be seriously considered for the most serious job in the world. Forgive me if I’ve succumbed to the conclusion that this season’s crop of candidates is, for worse rather than better, just a gang of opportunists who noticed that nobody else of any stature was interested in applying for the job. And, given the state of the economy, the unabated foreign policy reefs and shoals and our current president’s lackluster polling, one might have expected a higher calibre of job seekers. Alas, the GOP is now reaping what it hath sown over low these past decades. I’ve personally lived thru the perfidious Nixon years, the smoke and mirrors of St. Ronnie, the middling competency of G.H.W. Bush and the disaster that was his son and heir so I’m not surprised that the Republican gene poll has devolved into its current state as the political equivalent of the Love Canal. I will know that the corner has been turned when folks like Frum and Brooks and a few other thinking Republicans abandon the GOP and begin to seriously advocate for a new conservative beginning. But I’ve only got a few years left.