The PJ Tatler

We Can Talk About This Now, Or We Can Get Blindsided By This Later

So I vote that we air it now before any votes have been cast. Before you buy the car, get the CarFax.

If the GOP nominates Newt Gingrich, it will be nominating the only Speaker of the House in US history to have been formally reprimanded by the House that elected him. It takes a majority of your own party turning against you to make that happen. It occurred in January 1997.

The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and order him to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it has disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing.

The ethics case and its resolution leave Gingrich with little leeway for future personal controversies, House Republicans said. Exactly one month before yesterday’s vote, Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.

There’s a hilarious cameo by Maxine Waters in that story, and another by Nancy Pelosi about “trust,” but there’s also more about how Gingrich’s fellow Republicans dealt with his violations.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said that had he known what was in the ethics committee’s report, he would not have voted for Gingrich as speaker. “The gray got grayer when you read the report,” he said. “When I think of my three boys and what kind of example I want to set for them for leadership in this country, gray is not the example.”

Yes, that’s that Mark Sanford. More:

In a strongly worded report, special counsel James M. Cole concluded that Gingrich had violated tax law and lied to the investigating panel, but the subcommittee would not go that far. In exchange for the subcommittee agreeing to modify the charges against him, Gingrich agreed to the penalty Dec. 20 as part of a deal in which he admitted guilt.

While Gingrich is the only speaker to have been formally reprimanded by the House, he is of course not the only one to face ethics charges or resign in disgrace. In fact, Gingrich did the nation a service by filing the initial complaint that ended with Rep. Jim Wright (D-TX) resigning the speakership in 1989.

This is the ongoing problem with Gingrich. He can be a stalwart fighter for the cause on one hand and a completely compromised political Beltway creature on the other. Even while Gingrich 1.0 was the heroic and brilliant guerrilla in the hills fighting for the Reagan Revolution, he was having affairs with his campaign staff. Gingrich 2.0 is the one who led the GOP in taking Congress for the first time in a generation, and was later reprimanded, and who later on compromised the impeachment of President Clinton for lying under oath and suborning perjury, with his own scandalous behavior. Gingrich 3.0 is the elder statesman who at times seems so wise and capable, but who also made millions off of Freddie Mac and off of his health care advocacy (which he insists was not lobbying). It’s Gingrich 3.0 who swooned for global warming and sat on that couch with Nancy Pelosi. For Batman fans, there’s a bit of Tw0-Face at work here. Real, true greatness and very human and tragic flaws may have never been flip sides of the same personality as they are in the life of Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich says he’s a changed man now. I hope for his own sake, for America’s sake and for the GOP’s sake that he truly is.