Far too much on both sides of the aisle has been made of S.C. Rep. Joe Wilson’s intemperate outburst at the joint session of Congress. As he should have, he apologized to the president. As he shouldn’t have, he refused to apologize to Congress for violating its rules. He could have prevented the furor by telling the House he overreacted and was sorry for that.
The many who aren’t aware Congress has rules of decorum, and also those who rightfully oppose the president’s health care plan and couldn’t distinguish between apology for conduct and continued opposition to the plan, would have been upset. He and his announced opponent wouldn’t have been able to rake in several million dollars of campaign contributions.
I’ve found nothing that suggests Wilson is a racist; just the opposite. Since he’s fair political game, Democrats are trying to discredit him and the GOP.
I wrote earlier the GOP needed at the national level an issue spokesperson with proven credibility to rally them with promised specific solutions to problems that would work with in the mainstream populace. Several potential ones exist. I plan to review these separately with detail why they might be the person needed.
Today, we discuss former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Full disclosure: Newt and I have been friends since 1964 and off and on have worked together on political projects.
As the political season to elect those taking office in 1984 approached, Newt offered his "Contract with America" promising 10 specific things to accomplish in the first 100 days. GOP candidates across the nation included the contract in their platforms. The GOP won control and Minority Leader Gingrich became Speaker of the House.
The House passed all of the 10 promises and the Senate failed to pass only two by the deadline. His guidance delivered the contract.
It may be time for Newt to draw up a new contract, perhaps slightly shorter and perhaps a longer time frame. He has a proven record of deliverance. In my view, he was the smartest elected official in Washington when it came to effective governance if effectiveness means actually getting done what needs to be done.
Newt understands the "my way or no way" approach doesn’t work. He compromised just enough to get the necessary votes for passage in both houses. Some of the big wave of freshmen GOP congressmen (a version of today’s adamant right wing) rebelled at compromise. As a result, his hold as speaker became increasingly tenuous. He finally resigned from Congress because of marital infidelity.
An early and his biggest cause and major project out of office was health care. He became an expert and can design and articulate nonsocialized reform. He could promise Social Security reform eliminating today’s Ponzi scheme that is bankrupting us. He could promise realistic, real world immigration reform. Those "big three" should be at the forefront.
Such a contract by a united GOP with Newt as the agreed principal spokesman could conceivably result in a GOP takeover of at least the House next year and realistically leave him a viable presidential contender in 2012.
As Newt told me after leaving office, "Ted, you can’t be BOTH the party spokesman and leader unless you’re the president ..."
Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion page editor of The Times. You can contact him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears every other Tuesday.