Newt Gingrich, PhD, likes to remind people of his background as a historian. And when it comes to modern United States history, Gingrich indeed knows what he's talking about.
Flash back to the 1990s, when the then-House speaker was in a standoff with President Clinton over the budget. A shutdown loomed. Gingrich was sure Clinton would look like the bad guy if government services were slowed or stopped because of the budget impasse.
In fact, it didn't turn out that way. Gingrich, foolishly, also told reporters that one of the reasons he shut down the government (or behaved in a way to make that happen) was because he was mad that Clinton wouldn't come back on Air Force One, on the way to slain, former Israel leader Yitzhak Rabin's funeral, to talk to Gingrich.
The New York Daily News said it best with a page-one illustration of Gingrich as a crying baby in a diaper, shaking a rattle. "Crybaby," the headline read.
Gingrich not only didn't get his way, but he lost his mojo in the Tea Party movement of its time, the Contract with America. When his party lost seats in 1998, Gingrich resigned both as speaker and as a congressman from Georgia.
So Gingrich had the advantage of personal experience and knowledge of history when he said the current House Republican caucus should pass the two-month extension of the payroll tax already approved by the Senate, and try to get a better deal later on. On a campaign stop in Iowa, Gingrich advised:
"Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages. And I think what Republicans ought to do is what's right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily."
Instead, House Republicans seem certain they can get their way. They want a year-long extension (which is what Democrats want, too), but they want to pay for it in ways Democrats don't like. That's a difference of opinion they'll need to work out one way or the other, but if the Republicans think they are winning the public relations war on this one, they are making a risky bet.
Republicans slammed senators for being "on vacation," curled up around imaginary fireplaces. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sniped at President Obama for going out to a store the other night with his dog, Bo, and said the president could bring his dog to the Hill and work out a deal quickly.
A deal could indeed be worked out very quickly if the Senate and the White House just caved into the House. But neither entity is going to do that. And if the House doesn't pass something soon, Americans will see their payroll taxes go up after the first of the year. Do they think workers and voters will blame Obama and Democrats? They might want to ask Gingrich.