Thursday, September 26, 2013

A quantum of umbrage: The only smart thing Newt Gingrich ever said

Updated -- you'll see.

I haven't been able to track down the specifics -- Yes! As of May 2014 I have been! -- but I vividly remember a story Newt Gingrich told back before he became a disgraced former Speaker of the House (which was, in turn, before he began making a comfortable living as the Harold Stassen of modern Republican presidential politics and an inexplicable green room legacy). It was the one smart thing I ever remember him saying.

He told about driving along the Autobahn in Germany like a bat out of hell, and reflecting on the reduced speed limit that his own country had not long before placed on federal highways (in the name of fuel efficiency, or fewer deaths, or some other reason he didn't see any point to). If the German government imposed a 55 mph speed limit on the Autobahn, he reflected, the Germans would all begin driving 55 mph, and would vote that government out at the next election, whereupon they would all go back to driving like bats out of hell. Americans, faced with the same problem, complained about the speed limits, continued to drive 90 mph on federal highways, and re-elected their same representatives anyway.

All of which brings us to this (emphasis added):
With a potential government shutdown now looming, Americans find it unacceptable for either a president or members of Congress to threaten a government shutdown in order to achieve their goals, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

Eighty percent of Americans say threatening a government shutdown during budget debates is not an acceptable way to negotiate; only 16 percent think it is.

While partisan divides may exist on a number of issues, majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree that threatening a shutdown of the government is not the way to negotiate.

Now you probably remember that it was Gingrich forcing two government shutdowns in the mid-1990s in the belief it would harm Bill Clinton, and the attendant political backlash, that cost Newt his speakership. So there's that.

And yet Gingrich's Law will no doubt apply in the present case: Although every member of the House will be up for re-election next year (including every single break-the-government Obama-contrarian Tea Partier), and one-third of the members of the Senate (including too few of the worst of the worst like Cruz and Lee, but a big slice of their colleagues who enable them), would anyone bet actual money that there will be a noticeable electoral price to pay for their narcissistic, nihilistic antics?

There are never German voters around when you need them.

(Hat-tip to C&L.)

No comments: