WASHINGTON Talk about fired up and ready to go.
At a Republican victory party suffused with vengeful glee, the man who body-surfed the anti-establishment wave to become the next Speaker of the House was looking very establishment.
Even though it was predicted, it was still a shock to see voters humiliate a brilliant and spellbinding young president, whod had such a Kennedy-like beginning, while electing a lot of conservative nuts and promoting this central-casting congressman as the face of the future: a Republican who had vowed in a written pledge to restore America to old-fashioned values, returning to a gauzy Leave It to Beaver image that never existed even on the set of Leave It to Beaver.
Republicans outcommunicated a silver-tongued president who was supposed to be Ronald Reagans heir in the communications department.
They were able to convince a lot of Americans that the couple in the White House was not American enough, not quite normal, too communist, too radical, too Great Society. All that Ivy League schooling had made them think they knew better than average American folks, not to mention the founding fathers.
The Speaker-in-waiting sounded the alarm: The elites in the White House were snuffing out the America he grew up in. It took only two years to realize that their direction for the country was simply, as he put it, a contradiction with the vast majority of Americans.
No one gets to take America away from Americans not even the American president!
What the American people were saying is Enough! the Speaker-to-be told me, as he savored his own win and his partys landslide, which he said was a historical tide, not just a partisan election.
Washington had not been listening. Washington had been scorning the deepest beliefs of Americans. And now that would have to change.
American people are clearly fed up with what they see as the decay of American society, he declared.
The new leader of the House took a more black-and-white approach than the nuanced president. Its enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that you need the consent of the governed, and the governed did not consent.
Ascending to third in the line of succession for the presidency: a working-class kid who rose in the House as a rabble-rouser willing to throw bombs to score points against powerful Democrats. Now hed be helping to run the country, saving it from what he sees as an arrogant and out-of-touch clique of elites.
In the revolutionary flush of the electoral map glowing red, he was floating, working hard to avoid gloating (even though Sean Hannity was around, gloating about the pain about to befall the Democratic president).
But he could not resist taking a few jabs at the liberal media elite distorting things, and a few more at a puffed-up White House that got punished for not paying enough attention to peoples anxieties.
They had an enormous opportunity to bring about change and they failed, and I dont say that harshly, he said, adding: They really are left-wing elitists and they really thought the country didnt get it, and, therefore, it was their job to give the country the government that they thought the country needed, even if they didnt want it. Thats the whole history of the health plan.
There was a lot of talk, as in the campaign, about the misbegotten health care plan, about balancing the budget, about lowering the deficit and taxes, about doing something on abortion and bloated government. Meanwhile, bloated fat-cat lobbyists were dancing down K Street.
The next Speaker felt that the humbled president should take the election as a cue to be conciliatory, and he proposed they talk in the next few days. He offered to reach out to Democrats who wanted to work with his side, but also noted that the president would not be wise to stand in the way of the conservative agenda.
I prefer to believe that this president, who is clearly very smart, is quite capable of thinking clearly about a message sent by the American people, he said. He said that, contrary to what the media elite had been jabbering about, he would not use his subpoena power to rain down a series of investigations on the Democratic administration.
No witch hunts, he said. Only legitimate investigations.
Yeah, that all worked out for Newt Gingrich. He really came through. The quotes above came from Gingrich, when I covered his heady victory in Marietta, Ga., in the 1994 Republican landslide that made him Speaker.
And, obviously, the Republican House only pursued legitimate investigations of Bill Clinton. Sixteen years later, as John Boehner is on the cusp of dethroning Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker, the new crop of anarchic conservatives are saying all the same things.
God help the Republic.
Maureen Dowd, a nationally syndicated New York Times columnist, won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. She was formerly a White House correspondent.
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