Before Republicans put Newt Gingrich at the top of their party, they should consider what happened the last time he led it.
In the mid-1990s, Gingrich was the de facto head of the Republican Party. He helped lead it to victory in the congressional elections of 1994, which brought about real accomplishments such as welfare reform. But once he attained power, both his popularity and that of his party started to plummet. In the aftermath of his leadership, a Republican was able to take the presidency only by pointedly distancing himself from Gingrich.
Conservatives who dislike George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism have Gingrich to thank for it. After Gingrich lost the budget battles with President Bill Clinton, it took 15 years for any politician to take up the cause of limited-government conservatism that he had discredited.
George W. Bush’s conservative wasn’t very compassionate. It consisted of momentarily feeling bad for homeless people as you looked the other way and riding in your limo. He “compassionately” murdered at least 100,000 Iraqis in a war of conquest and made jokes about it.
I do, however, appreciate Mr. Ponnuru admitting that Bill Clinton successfully discredited limited-government conservatism.