The Magazine


Sep 13, 1999, Vol. 4, No. 48 • By DAVID FRUM
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As Clinton again and again bested Gingrich, conservatives lost faith in the political appeal of their message. As Gingrich's parliamentary tactics proved useless against the agenda-setting power of the president, conservatives came to doubt not merely their tactics, but their doctrines. And once Clinton escaped punishment for his crimes, conservatives' uncontainable rage convinced them that his successor must be defeated, even at the price of nominating a Republican presidential candidate who owed conservatives little and liked them even less.

Much fun has been made of Gingrich's self-comparison to Henry Clay. But what was dismaying about Gingrich's interview was not the reappearance of his familiar fondness for grandiose historical self-comparisons, but the reminder of how much he once promised conservatives -- and how they have since fallen.

David Frum is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and author of a forthcoming history of life in the 1970s, How We Got Here (Basic).