Gingrich to House Republicans: Learn from my mistakes

BALTIMORE – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told House Republicans Friday there are many lessons to be learned from the showdown he had with then-President Clinton in 1995.

Addressing the new House GOP majority behind closed doors at their annual retreat, Gingrich said focusing on a political message is vital, sources said.

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Florida freshman Rep. Allen West (R) said Gingrich, a potential presidential contender in 2012, advised the lawmakers to get ahead of the hot-button issues.

West said Gingrich told them, “Messaging, being able to be proactive, not reactive and having a long-term vision and a long-term strategy which help you to build the enabling goals and objectives to get there.”

A source in the room said Gingrich cited the 1995 budget confrontation with Clinton over a balanced budget.

Gingrich did not express regret for his dealings with Clinton, which resulted in the shutdown of the federal government. He did acknowledge, however, that Democrats won the message war and Republicans took much of the blame for the impasse.

Still, Gingrich, a former history professor, emphasized the environment for the 2011 House majority has significant differences from the GOP majority he led in 1995.

West said, “A lot of people want to say that this is much like 1994 but they didn’t have the economic crisis, they didn’t have a country that was engaged in multiple combat theatres of operation so there are some differences.”

Gingrich led the 1994 GOP revolution, but after some missteps, he resigned as Speaker just four years later.

A Gingrich spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

House Republicans are gathering in Baltimore, roughly 40 miles north of the nation’s capital. Making the transition from minority party to the governing party of the lower chamber is front and center on the GOP’s agenda.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) spoke briefly to reporters Friday afternoon at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel in between sessions to say that his colleagues are “renewed and energized.”

According to a number of members attending the private meetings, the tone at this retreat has been somber given the recent assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the nation’s ailing economy and record deficit.


Other speakers who addressed the House GOP at the retreat include former GOP Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

Other than Gingrich, Barbour and Perry and have been mentioned as 2012 presidential candidates. Perry has indicated, however, he will not mount a White House bid.

House Republican Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (Ill.) told reporters Friday that the Republican freshmen are ready to play a leading role in the 112th Congress.

“There’s no hubris. There’s no chest thumping. This is a serious group,” Roskam said.

Raising the debt limit has been a major point of discussion this weekend.

House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) told reporters in Charm City that tackling the debt ceiling will be coupled with long-term spending cuts and a discussion on entitlements.

Barbour, McDonnell and Perry held a Friday press conference – the first such event since the retreat began on Thursday afternoon – to describe their lengthy session with House Republicans.

McDonnell requested that lawmakers not only consider the constitutionality of new laws but also, how such laws would affect states.

“The governors are asking them to stop and think … what’s the impact on the states and how is it going to affect them?” McDonnell said, citing what he described as unfunded mandates and regulations imposed federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

House GOP lawmakers were scheduled to hear from conservative columnist George Will on Friday night.