Gingrich, Bill Clinton Both Claim '90s Legacy

Monday, 26 Dec 2011 03:58 PM

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's efforts to run on a dazzling record of success in the 1990s — a record that encompasses a booming economy, balanced budgets and a historic welfare reform law — is irking friends and former aides to former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton and Gingrich had, at best, a rocky relationship, writes Politico.com. So his efforts to take on a legacy that Bill Clilnton claims doesn't sit right with those who worked in the administration.

“Newt Gingrich running on President Clinton’s record is like the coal delivery man stealing Santa’s sleigh,” said Joe Andrew, a former Democratic National Committee chairman from 1999 to 2001.

“The then-speaker was not only an impediment to the president’s policies that resulted in years of record-setting growth, the speaker nearly derailed the very constitutional system he swore to uphold and now claims as the basis of his radical policies. His only success is in making news — bad news.”

Longtime Clinton political adviser James Carville was equally harsh: “The idea that he had anything to do with balancing the budget is ludicrous. There’s so many people claiming paternity here. There’s only one that passes the DNA test and that’s the president.”

And another:

“Newt Gingrich trying to claim credit for the Clinton economy is like Johnny Ringo claiming credit for the gunfight at the OK Corral” was the take of former Clinton adviser Paul Begala. “He was involved in it — just on the losing side. Newt opposed President Clinton’s economic plan with all the bombast, bitterness and bloviating for which he’s famous . . . What’s next? Is Newt going to claim credit for President Clinton’s weight loss?”

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond shot back, “It takes two. A bill is just a bill, but working with Newt, bills became welfare reform, tax cuts and balanced budgets.”

But Gingrich has his fair share of supporters who say he did all the things he now touts on the campaign trail.

New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien slammed those who want to take Gingrich's credit away, calling them “revisionist historians."

“All Bill Clinton had to show before Newt Gingrich’s leadership in the House was a failed stimulus, a failed attempt at national health care . . . and of course, midnight basketball,” O’Brien said. “It was not Bill Clinton who crafted the welfare reform that lifted millions out of poverty . . . It was only the dogged determination of Newt Gingrich’s House of Representatives.”

Ralph Reed, the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, who played a key role in helping the GOP take back the House in 1994, also defended the former speaker.

“Anytime you have those kinds of public policy victories, there’s obviously plenty of credit to go around,” said Reed, a longtime Gingrich friend. “But the fact is on the seminal achievements of the ’90s, especially a tax cut, balanced budget and welfare reform, Clinton was dragged kicking and screaming to the altar. And it was only after multiple vetoes, including vetoes that led to a government shutdown, that those changes in public policy were achieved.”




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