In his recent book “No Retreat, No Surrender,” former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about Newt Gingrich:
DeLay admits that the Republican leaders empowered by the 1994 elections — comprising himself as majority whip, Gingrich as speaker and Armey as majority leader — “were not a cohesive team, and this hindered our ability to change the nation.” He puts most blame “at Newt Gingrich’s door.”
In describing Gingrich as an “ineffective Speaker,” DeLay writes: “He knew nothing about running meetings and nothing about driving an agenda.” He adds: “Nearly every other day he had a new agenda, a new direction he wanted us to take. It was impossible to follow him.”
DeLay also declares that “our leadership was in no moral shape to press” for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Writing well before Gingrich’s admission for the first time last week, DeLay asserts: “It is now public knowledge that Newt Gingrich was having an affair with a staffer during the entire impeachment crisis. Clearly, men with such secrets are not likely to sound a high moral tone at a moment of national crisis.”
It is not particularly surprising that DeLay would criticize Gingrich in this manner – he did, after all, seek to topple Gingrich from his position as House Speaker back in 1997 in a coup that failed miserably.
But apparently that decade-old betrayal, as well as the recent attacks contained in his book, are mere bygones – at least for DeLay, who is suddenly heaping praise on Gingrich:
Whatever else can be said of Newt Gingrich, he is not a typical politician.
He applies to public policy a knowledge of history that is simply unmatched in professional politics today. It’s cliché to say someone’s brain is like a sponge, but in Gingrich’s case it applies doubly so — not only does he absorb and retain almost every piece of information he encounters, but he can, with the slightest squeeze, blurt it back out at you in a different way from which it came in.
He’s the closest real-world comparison to the “West Wing’s” President Josiah Bartlet — quirky, unpredictable and almost impossibly brilliant.
His presence in a debate up against the trite, over-rehearsed pabulum of his opponents will quickly propel him to the top tier of the field. I think he’ll be a fantastic presidential candidate; he’ll run circles around the other guys in the debates (and it’s a deep Republican field, remember).
DeLay even desperately attempts to recast his own criticisms of Gingrich as strengths. Whereas just months ago, DeLay said Gingrich was so incompetent that he couldn’t run a meeting or drive an agenda, it turns out that Gingrich’s real problem was that he was just too brilliant:
[His] hyperkinetic brain of his generated more ideas than the Republican conference could manage at once. Sometimes Newt’s Next Big Idea would change three times in a week. They’d all be brilliant, they’d usually be good, but the unpredictability left many Republicans unsure as to where he was leading us.
With Gingrich toying with the idea of his own presidential run, it sure seems as if DeLay is trying to get on his good side, maybe in hopes of getting a plum job with his administration. Or maybe he’s just trying to lay the groundwork in case he ever needs a pardon.