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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Lesson from the Gingrich Revolution: Don't Ignore Foreign Policy

Thursday had a nostalgic feel to it in so many ways. While the inauguration of Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker was historic to say the least, opening day had the same feeling as the first day of the Congress in 1994 when a clearly dejected Dick Gephardt handed the gavel and the keys to the House to Newt Gingrich.

It's amazing to hear commentators on the many talking head shows (which did not exist in 1995 when Gingrich rose to power) discuss Nancy Pelosi's capability for the job. I first remember Pelosi as the consciences representative from San Francisco that rose every year to oppose Most Favored Nation status for China and in those fights I observed a tough leader, the sort of leader the Democrats in the House at the time lacked. (She was tough, but also pleasant unlike so many leaders of the left) That's why I was not surprised when several years later Pelosi shocked everybody by defeating establishment insider Steny Hoyer for Minority Whip and then eventually becoming the Speaker of the House.

Pelosi needs to recall her early days as a House member when she worked against MFN and was a leading House voice on Human Rights. When Newt Gingrich's revolutionary troops stormed the Capitol in January 1995, they brought a full agenda of Domestic change, but found themselves flat footed when dealing with the Mexican Peso bailout, the escalating conflict in the Balkans and the expansion of NATO. Reasonable and experienced foreign policy voices in the GOP caucus like Jim Leach and Doug Berueter were often ignored because the only foreign affairs that mattered to the GOP majority was that which fit the new majority's domestic agenda. Items like restrictions on family planning funds and the removal of US troops from UN forces were the only international matters of interest to the GOP.

Clinton was able to prove his relevance and reinvent his Presidency not only because of Dick Morris' famous "triangulation," but because at a time when it appeared Gingrich was the most powerful man in American, Clinton once again looked like a leader when it came to Foreign Affairs. If Pelosi, Hoyer and the Democratic Leadership cede Iraq, North Korea, Iran and other International issues to the White House as they appear somewhat destined to do, they will suffer the same fate as the Gingrich crowd, and make it much easier for a qualified foreign policy oriented Republican, like John McCain or Chuck Hagel to become President.


Anonymous said...

Kartik, you should call your friend Michael.

Kartik said...

Will do.....owe you a call! Saw you called Thursday. Probably will call Monday.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.