On Staten Island today, Newt Gingrich held a town hall for local tea partiers. He was well-received, garnering plenty of applause. And when he and his wife, Callista, signed books afterwards, the line was hundreds of people long.
One thing that struck me was his earnestness in pushing bipartisanship, not a typical theme at tea-party events.
For instance, speaking about the years the budget was balanced while he was speaker, Gingrich remarked, “That was with a liberal Democrat in the White House. . . . [Clinton] claims 90 percent of the credit, and I claim 90 percent of the credit, so we would like 180 percent achievement.”
“But the fact is,” Gingrich added, “if he hadn’t signed it, then it wouldn’t have worked, and if I hadn’t passed it, it wouldn’t have worked. So it did take a bipartisan approach to get the country moving again.” Later on, in response, to a questioner, he was even blunter in his praise of Clinton: “We couldn’t have gotten done what we did without Clinton,” he said.
How to do that, Gingrich suggested, involved welcoming “every Democrat who likes paychecks,” “every Democrat who likes American energy,” and “every American who believes in the Declaration of Independence.”
He spoke about having to attract Democratic votes to stay in Congress during his early years as House member in Georgia, and referred to working to get Democratic votes in the ’80s to pass Reagan’s initiatives. “I grew up in politics learning a lot about how you build bipartisan coalitions,” Gingrich observed.
Perhaps that’s why Gingrich values so highly what he called the “little things” that could help restore goodwill in Washington among Democrats and Republicans, such as “having the right picnic for families, having the families with children bring the kids over, having people fly on Air Force One … phone call on a birthday.”
“There are a thousand small things that create bipartisanship even if you disagree about big things,” Gingrich said. “And it’s really important to remember that, all the little human things that a good leader can do to get the city of Washington to work again. Tragically, none of them are being done by the current team.”