Remembering Godfrey Sperling

Newt Gingrich appeared at a Sperling breakfast and vented about how poorly he was treated when he accompanied President Clinton to the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin.  At one point he said he was considering closing down the government as a result of his poor treatment, according to an article that was put on the Associated Press wire.

Congressman Bob Livingston of Louisiana, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, came before the House Rules Committee that afternoon to ask for a rule to consider a CR to keep the government open. The C-SPAN cameras were rolling for his testimony.

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When it came my turn to ask a question to Livingston, I engaged in the following exchange (not word for word but as close as I can recall):  Bob, I have just been handed an AP story reporting that Speaker Gingrich is threatening to close down the government because of his poor treatment as a part of the delegation to Prime Minister Rabin’s funeral.  I was also a part of that delegation and am aware that the Speaker was actually treated very well.  He was the only person in the delegation who was permitted to take his wife on the trip.  Not even past presidents were extended this courtesy.

And then I said, Bob, don’t you think the Speaker is acting like a “cry baby?”

Obviously, a lot of people were watching the live television coverage of the Rules Committee that day because the next morning the New York Daily News carried a front page cartoon showing Gingrich in a diaper holding a milk bottle.  “Cry baby” Newt went viral and this was the beginning of the end of the Gingrich Speakership several years later.

The planets were aligned.  Newt appeared at a Sperling breakfast, the AP carried a story about his remarks, the Rules Committee hearing that same day was televised (not always the case) and I asked a very simple question based on what Newt said at the Sperling breakfast.

I’m not sure Godfrey Sperling had this type thing in mind when he originated this very significant series of newsmaker breakfasts but somewhere he must be smiling today. 

Frost represented Texas's 24th Congressional District from 1979 to 2005.  He chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 1996 and 1998 election cycles and was chair of the House Democratic Caucus from 1999 to 2003.