May 13, 2005

Is Newt changing sides?

From the NY Times:

Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, has been working alongside the former first lady on a number of issues, and even appeared with her at a press conference on Wednesday to promote - of all things - health-care legislation.

But more puzzling than that, Mr. Gingrich has been talking up Mrs. Clinton's presidential prospects in 2008, to the chagrin of conservative loyalists who once regarded him as a heroic figure. Last month, he even suggested she might capture the presidency, saying "any Republican who thinks she's going to be easy to beat has a total amnesia about the history of the Clintons."

What gives?[...]

The Clinton-Gingrich connection comes as Mrs. Clinton has increasingly staked out moderate positions in several areas. She has recently promoted a more gradual approach to guaranteeing health care for more Americans, a departure from her efforts in the 1990's, when Republican critics like Mr. Gingrich accused her of advocating a big-government takeover of the health care system.

Her recent views on the subject struck a chord with Mr. Gingrich, she recalled.

"Newt Gingrich called and said, 'You're absolutely right,' " Mrs. Clinton said.

As it turns out, Mr. Gingrich and Mrs. Clinton have a lot more in common now that they have left behind the politics of the 1990's, when she was a symbol of the liberal excesses of the Clinton White House and he was a fiery spokesman for a resurgent conservative movement in Washington.

Beyond the issue of health care, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gingrich have forged a relatively close relationship working on a panel the Pentagon created to come up with ways to improve the nation's military readiness, according to people close to them.

Mr. Gingrich says he has been struck by how pro-defense Mrs. Clinton has turned out to be at a time when other Democrats have criticized President Bush's decision to go to war against Iraq. He chalked that up to her experience in the White House, where her husband, as commander in chief, had to deal with grave national security matters.

"Unlike most members of the legislature, she has been in the White House," he said. "She's been consistently solid on the need to do the right thing on national defense." [...]

On Thursday, he reiterated his belief that she will be a formidable challenger if she decides to run for the presidency in 2008. "Any Republican who thinks she's going to be easy to beat in 2008 really misunderstands the Clintons."

Exactly why Mr. Gingrich has been so effusive about Mrs. Clinton is an open question. He says he has been impressed by the job she has done since becoming a senator.

But others say that he gains as much politically as she does by sharing a stage with her, at a time when he is said to be mulling over the possibility of running for the presidency in 2008

"It's mutually beneficial," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist. "He gets to appear to be a mainstream figure and she gets to appear as someone who is willing to work with everyone, no matter their ideology."

But Mr. Gingrich may end up paying a price politically for engaging in what many conservatives regard as heresy. "He is trying to change his image into a softer and more gentle Newt," said Michael Long, the chairman of the New York State Conservative Party. "That is a major mistake on his part."

Between this and the sudden vote of no confidence in John Bolotn as UN ambassador, is it possible that there are elements in the Republican party running scared from their own success?

Posted 2005/05/13 10:34 (Fri) | TrackBack