Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review May 30, 2002 / 19 Sivan, 5762

Matt Towery

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

In search of an aggressive GOP leader | There is little doubt that, for Republicans, the single most influential member of Congress in modern times was former Speaker Newt Gingrich. While Gingrich's hard-charging style and various brushes with controversy might not have always endeared him to the press -- or for that matter, his colleagues -- it would be difficult to deny that his brief tenure as speaker brought one of the swiftest and most sweeping set of changes in the history of American government.

Gingrich's Contract With America may well have been the last major set of coherent and effective policies set forth by the Republicans in Congress. Since Gingrich's departure, individual Republican leaders have teamed with the White House to pass significant legislation, including the Bush tax-relief package and education reform bill.

But for the most part, it has been a muted GOP effort, lacking the bravado -- and the votes -- of the early days of Newt.

That having been said, there is an "inside story" concerning the current Republican leadership in the House. It is the quiet effectiveness and popularity of America's "Stealth Speaker," Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

In appearance, Hastert seems to be almost a Newt clone. His large husky frame and salt-with-just-a-little-pepper hair cause some to wonder if Gingrich still roams the rooms of the Speaker's Office. But Hastert's approach and demeanor are entirely different from his predecessor.

Meeting with a handful of individuals, Hastert is quiet and business-like. Unlike Gingrich, who often entered such intimate meetings with a particular new concept or program in mind, Hastert seems more content to sit back and let those visiting with him do the talking.

Not that Hastert doesn't have his own opinions. On Jimmy Carter's proposal that we normalize trade with Cuba, Hastert coolly observes that, political differences notwithstanding, even if such normalization were possible, Cuba has no hard currency with which to buy anything.

"If this is one of those situations where we're sending American dollars down there so they can turn around and send them back ... that makes no sense." In typical fashion, Hastert' s low-key response was perhaps the most logical answer to have been put forth on the issue.

And this low-key, reasoned and no-nonsense approach to his duties has made Hastert a relatively well-liked leader. While some extremists on the GOP side of the House still grumble about the degree of muffled moderation the speaker employs in his approach to issues, his interpersonal relationship with most members, even many Democrats, is extremely strong.

The question for Republicans is whether the flamboyant and take-no-prisoners style of Gingrich simply alienated people without accomplishing anything, or whether it represented the only time in recent years that Republicans seemed to have a popular, coherent, "do something" agenda.

Despite his faults -- and all politicians have them -- Newt Gingrich was a brilliant man capable of "thinking outside of the box" and then converting these creative concepts into legislative success.

Hastert seems far less likely to invent the next conservative revolution, or for that matter, even an inventive set of legislative proposals. But perhaps that's not what the Republicans need.

It seems that as we head into the heart of the election year, Republicans would do well to introduce the down-to-earth style of this virtually unknown leader to the American people. His is the voice of steady reason and candid "Midwestern values."

President Bush cannot alone carry the weight of keeping a Republican majority in the House. And the administration has too few "warm and fuzzy" types to serve as his surrogates. The political gurus who generally create mediocre national ads for the Republican Party might consider letting America in on the secret of this bright, levelheaded and likeable House leader.

No, Hastert is no Newt Gingrich. And Gingrich, who may now seem a forgotten piece of history, will remain the most effective GOP legislator of our time. But walking softly and carrying a "big gavel" can also be effective. If only someone will notice.

Comment on JWR columnist Matt Towery's column by clicking here.


05/16/02: The oddity of Carter's legacy
05/09/02: Replay of 1992 coming?
05/02/02: The hottest family on television might have to abandon the United States
04/25/02: One step ahead of devious minds capable of unthinkable crimes?
04/18/02: Alaskan battleground?
04/11/02: How the peaceful fairways of the world's most revered golf course, may serve as a brilliant strategic battleground the most recent round of "cola wars"
04/05/02: The most likely immediate threat to our national security is being ignored
03/14/02: Clinton's influence looms
03/07/02: Poll turns up surprising views on Bush and more
02/21/02: The recession is over --- so why are the sophisticates still using scare tactics?
02/14/02: This Enron story directly affects our own pocketbooks
02/07/02: The epicenter of quiet but powerful shifts in the American political landscape
01/31/02: A little bipartisan hope
01/24/02: Secrets of the past can often provide guidance for dealing with the future
01/18/02: And I thought explaining Jane Fonda was tough
01/09/02: Dubya falling into Dems' trap?
01/02/02: A few adjustments and 2002 might turn out all right
12/27/01 Rudy, the 'perfect excuse'?
12/19/01 Haig the madman?
12/12/01 That senator with the funny name

© 2001, Creators Syndicate