Gingrich Likely to Mix Power with Lower Profile: Legislative Success Could Make Public Forget Ethics
Lambro, Donald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The White House and Congress yesterday resumed the business of government, with the House speaker disciplined for unethical behavior and the president facing renewed investigations for illegal campaign financing.
The conventional wisdom is that Speaker Newt Gingrich and his party have been weakened by his reprimand, and multiple investigations threaten to undermine President Clinton as well.
But conventional wisdom is often wrong, and political analysts say it could be wildly off target now as well. Too many political figures and parties have been counted out in the past, only to resurrect themselves.
"Any time you have people in Washington saying someone is politically dead, that usually means that guy's resurrection has already begun," said David Smick, a veteran Republican adviser.
"Bill Clinton is a prime example of that. After the 1994 midterm elections, he was at the bottom of his presidency and destined for defeat, and now here he is at the top of the heap," Mr. Smick said.
Several analysts say they don't believe that Mr. Gingrich's legislative leadership or party influence will be diminished. He and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott hold the reins of the GOP majorities in Congress, and that situation is unlikely to change.
Mr. Gingrich may play a less visible role in the months to come, giving greater prominence to his chief deputies, but he will remain the power behind the scenes, shaping the Republican legislative agenda and strategy, the analysts say.
"In the public's perception, this will be less of a Gingrich Congress, but he will continue to dominate it from behind the scenes because there isn't any strategist in the Republican Party who can do what he does best," Mr. Smick said.
How Mr. Gingrich is perceived will depend on what legislation the House passes this year, analysts say.
"If Republicans can come up with three or four big things on their agenda and begin to do them, people will forget all about Newt's problems," said Martin Anderson, a senior public policy analyst at the Hoover Institution. …