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Newt Did Not Resign in Disgrace

10:53 AM, Feb 3, 2012 • By MARK SOUDER
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I argued that he could delay it if he desired, and that future earnings from book contracts were acceptable since no date was stipulated and it was a railroad job that had only occurred because Democrats took unfair advantage of Newt’s need to have the report released (not incidentally, because Chris and I were among those demanding it). It turned out that had not been the position of others present. Afterwards Chris asked Newt why he and I had been asked to join. His answer said a lot about how inside politics works. Basically he said that Chris and I were opinionated people who neither Newt nor anyone else could really “control” so we would we be correctly viewed as providing independent opinions. And we weren’t rich, so would understand his challenge in coming up with such a huge payment.

Had Newt lost this bid to be reelected speaker at that time, perhaps his removal could have been called a “disgrace.” But he won re-election despite the ethics controversy. Even here the complete story does not end. In 1997 I was asked to become part of a group of five Members led by Bill Paxon to develop strategies and meet with the speaker for several hours each week. As we moved into 1998, things became even more disorganized, which I could see firsthand. I was also the conservative leader of a group organized by Majority Leader Dick Armey called “unity dinners,” where we argued about amendment trees for upcoming legislation. Jim Greenwood and I would select appropriate advocates from the different factions, and then we’d have structured private “fights” along with Armey. Without clear direction, it was becoming clear that we were headed for shipwreck. So I joined with other classmates, as well as some of the leaders, as part of the first coup attempt in the summer of 1997. After additional chaos, and after our 1998 election losses proved the point, Speaker Gingrich stood down.

Whatever else, and I say this as both an ally and a tormentor of Speaker Gingrich, he did not resign in disgrace. His leadership was key in getting us to the majority. His inspiration helped keep us there: twice. But after the 1998 midterm election, with a presidential campaign approaching and Governor George W. Bush emerging as our likely leader with a real chance to regain the presidency, we needed a speaker who could manage the House not an idea leader. So like a business changing direction, we changed leadership.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose Newt Gingrich. I happen to support Rick Santorum. But the speaker has been unfairly maligned by Mitt Romney, and the full story needs to be told.

Mark Souder was a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2010.


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