The Corner

‘An Empty Bucket in His Hand’

It’s true that Newt Gingrich used to go around with an empty ice bucket in 1996. It was a symbol of his efforts to cut congressional perks and costs. For decades prior to 1995, every congressional office would receive a daily delivery of ice from a central freezer on the Capitol grounds. It was a holdover from the days before easy refrigeration, and it made for a nice demonstration of the sort of silly and costly perks that members of Congress received. When he became Speaker, Gingrich ended the practice and (in large part because that meant eliminating several staff positions) saved some $400,000 a year. Gingrich liked to use the ice bucket as a metaphor for Democratic governance: expensive, wasteful, and out-of-date. Whatever you think of the metaphor, it was something Gingrich talked about constantly, including on many occasions in the presence of Bob Dole.

 

One could point to any number of erratic, undisciplined, and peculiar statements or actions by Newt Gingrich during his speakership. He was in many ways a disastrous manager and leader. But Dole’s example in his statement today reflects more poorly on Dole than on Gingrich, I’d say. And putting out this statement from Dole frankly doesn’t reflect well on the political judgment of the Romney campaign.

Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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