Herman Cain endorses Newt Gingrich
Seeking to remain relevant in Republican politics, Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich, in what couldn’t have been a more predictable move:
The move by the former GOP candidate and tea-party favorite comes three days before the Florida primary, at a moment when Gingrich is badly in need of something to rekindle the momentum he gained in the wake of his South Carolina primary victory.
“I had it in my heart and mind a long time,” Cain said of his endorsement, appearing with Gingrich at a Republican fundraiser. “Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas.”
Gingrich joked, “I had no idea it would be this interesting an evening.”
Cain is the latest in a series of popular conservative figures to back the former House speaker, while much of the GOP establishment is marshaling against him. Among Gingrich’s other recent supporters are former Alaska governor Sarah Palin; his onetime presidential rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry; and former senator Fred Thompson (Tenn.).
Cain backed Romney in 2008, but both he and Gingrich are from Georgia and it was obvious during the debates that they had had an affection for each other. And while the endorsement will be played up by anti-Romney conservatives, Gingrich’s actions as Speaker of the House, such as trying to diminish the influence of fiscal conservatives, are continuing to come under fire.
Some of this was pointed out by Stephen Slivinski, author of Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, in a post last month here at United Liberty. Slivinski explained how Gingrich sought to embarrass budget hawks in front of the caucus. Though the stunt backfired, Gingrich would win in the end:
The first of many battles between Gingrich and the budget-cutters was over the funding for House committees. A bill the Speaker was pushing would have reversed the hard-won cuts of the previous year. In fact, the legislation would have trashed a key element of the Contract with America: in 1995, when the House cut congressional committee funding by a third, House leaders touted it as one of the first Contract promises kept.
“It should have come as no surprise that some of us were going to say no when they want to hire more Washington bureaucrats,” said budget hawk Mark Neumann of Wisconsin when he declared he would vote against the bill. “When we go out and tell our people we’re going to balance the budget, we can’t start with an increase in our own budget.” With all Democrats opposed to the bill, the swing votes came from eleven GOP budget hawks. It went down to defeat by a narrow margin of three votes.
Gingrich was furious. A few minutes after the vote, he announced an unusual mandatory meeting of all House Republicans in the caucus room right outside the House chamber. The session was going to begin with a roll-call and the Speaker threatened to send the sergeant-at-arms to round up any absent GOP congressman. Once the meeting started, Gingrich fumed. “The eleven geniuses who thought they knew more than the rest of the Congress are going to come up and explain their votes,” he said. It was an unusual step and one that seemed to be motivated mostly by anger. It even surprised the more senior members of Congress, none of whom had ever heard of anyone being asked to explain their vote in this way to the entire caucus. Gingrich’s goal was to humiliate, and he derisively referring to the dissenting members as “you conservatives,” as if they were a distinctly different and unacceptable breed of Republican. He derided them for not being team players and threatened to delay a two-week recess until each of those members explained himself and until the leadership had enough votes to pass the committee bill.
Rep. Steve Largent of Oklahoma, former wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, pushed back. “The Speaker tonight talked about the eleven of us letting the team down. The more significant question and the question that never gets asked in Washington, D.C., is whose teams are we on?”
Many in the room began to nod their heads. The mood had turned against Gingrich. When he was done speaking, Largent received enthusiastic applause from most of the Republicans present. Gingrich never tried a stunt like that again.
Instead, he worked behind the scenes – and not for the last time – to upset the plans of the fiscal conservatives. He struck a deal with the eleven GOP budget-cutters to freeze committee budgets for 30 days so a compromise could eventually be reached. But instead of negotiating in good faith with the conservatives, Gingrich used that delay to cut deals with a handful of Republicans eager to increase spending. In the end, the committee budgets went up by roughly the amount originally proposed.
Former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) recounts this particular instance as well, noting that it was a betrayal of the “Contract with America” that laid out their conservative principles and helped put them in control of Congress:
As Steve Largent grabbed the microphone, the crowd of GOP members was still shouting insults. But by the time he stood behind the podium, even our most hostile opponents grew quiet.
Steve spoke softly about how he signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks and remembered shaking the hand of the team’s owner after the deal was done. A few years later, the NFL Players Association went on strike. But Largent told the mob, who were now transfixed, that he crossed those picket lines because he signed a contract and gave his word. Largent told the group that a few years later, the NFL players went on strike a second time and he was once again one of the few NFL players to keep reporting for work. For Steve, it was a matter of principle.
The beautiful NFL Hall of Famer then quietly moved in for the kill.
Turning to the Speaker, who a year earlier had been named Time Magazine’s person of the year, Largent said, “Newt, you were the one who drafted the contract and then told us to sign it. Now, you’re the one pressuring us to break it. But Newt, if I wasn’t intimidated by the thought of 250 pound linebackers who wanted to kill me every time I crossed the field, why would I be intimidated by you?”
This wasn’t the only instance of Gingrich’s betrayal of fiscally conservative prinicples while he was leading the House, and his betrayals weren’t limited to that time period. As has been documented, Gingrich lobbied for passage of Medicare Part D, a multi-trillion dollar expansion of an already fiscally unsound program. He, like Romney, backed the individual mandate for health insurance. And Gingrich, like Cain, also supported TARP.
The skepticism of Romney is deserved, but it’s almost invalid if the answer to him is Gingrich, who is just as much of a Big Government Republican. And perhaps Gingrich’s transgressions are even more alarming because he is so endeared by conservatives despite being the man who laid the groundwork for Republicans to lose their way.