Politics: 'Contract With America' a Failed Strategy
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
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.