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Politics: 'Contract With America' a Failed Strategy

Updated on December 7, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich

1996 Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
1996 Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich

President Bill Clinton

United States President Bill Clinton
United States President Bill Clinton

The road to hell, it's been said, is paved with good intentions.

While always praiseworthy, good intentions can, if you're not careful, take you down the wrong road.

Newt Gingrich and his band of freshmen extremists in the House of Representatives have been traveling down the wrong road from the day they embraced the so-called Contract With America.

Their vote Friday to assure funding of politically sensitive programs and to allow furloughed workers to go back on the job -- with the necessary funds to operate -- was merely a strategy designed to forestall mounting criticism.

Holding government workers hostage for nearly two weeks, and attempting to use them as leverage in their negotiations with President Clinton, was (and is) just plain wrong.

Newt and his freshmen legislators may believe a balanced budget to be so important that it warrants extreme measures, but such a view is not only extremist but short-sighted as well.

Extremism, as policy, may achieve some short-term goals, but rarely is it successful in the long run because it invariably generates backlash that inevitably wipes out any short-term gains.

Gingrich and the freshmen were elected because they sought reforms that many Americans believe are needed. But, instead of going about the business of the House and taking up those proposals in the natural order of things, Gingrich decided on a strategy of bringing the government to a virtual standstill until he could say he delivered his Contract With America.

The strategy didn't work.

It wasn't because the House didn't spend enough time and effort on the contract; nor because it didn't win approval. Rather, the strategy failed because the contract is defective.

It's the job of the House to consider bills proposed by its members, hold hearings and gather facts about the issues involved, and, generally, amend the proposal to make it viable. Only then does it make sense to approve the legislation and, if endorsed by the Senate, send it to the president for his signature.

Gingrich, and the freshmen congressmen who signed on to the contract, thought they could turn the House of Representatives upside down and reverse the process: Issue a political agenda and demand it be approved, virtually without hearings or debate.

There's little doubt Gingrich and the Republican Party leadership believe they're right in following the road to a balanced budget, smaller government, a thriving economy and re-election in November. But many Americans don't like the road they're traveling; they've gone beyond politics-as-usual to new heights of intransigence and arrogance.

Gingrich and his followers try to portray President Clinton as dishonest, and continually lash out at him for failing to come up with a balanced budget. But Americans know he's doing the right thing in working to protect children, the poor and the elderly (after all, many Americans are children, or poor or elderly.)

Newt and his freshmen extremists have reached a crossroads, and would be well advised to follow a more moderate path.

Is it possible this whole strategy is designed to make Bob Dole look like a moderate?

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Jan. 6, 1996. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

Is a balanced budget always advisable under any circumstances?

See results

Mitt Romney Opposes the 'Contract With America'


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    • poppyl1 profile image

      Charles 5 years ago from Marlton, NJ

      both parties have their short commings Bob, but one has to seek out both sides of an argument in order to make an intelligent/informed decision based on the particles of truth we can extract from the reporting and the talking points of the representatives themselves.

    • profile image

      Bob 10 years ago

      Gov't sure was shut down , but it was Clintoon who forced the closing. If the media gave an unbiased report , but you know most of the media leans way over on the left and would NEVER write anything negitive about the Clintons or the Dems.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney

      I like your pottedhistory from a period of 12 years ago. I hope you were the paper for many more years to come

      Thank you