Newt Gingrich was met by a picture of himself in diapers when he visited the New Hampshire capitol Tuesday, an image that has followed him for more than 15 years. A protester was holding a blown-up version of the cartoon shown above, The New York Times' Trip Gabriel reports, first published in the New York Daily News on November 16, 1995. On Friday, the Daily News reprinted some of the famous column that inspired the cartoon. The story's author was Lars-Erik Nelson a beloved columnist who, as Alexander Nazaryan writes, a Brooklyn-born Republican who hated Washington hypocrisy and bad manners. That comes through in the 1995 column:
Here was Newt Gingrich, leader of the Republican Revolution and defender of civilization on this planet, forced to sit for 25 hours in the back of Air Force One, waiting for President Clinton to stop by and negotiate a budget deal. But Clinton never came back. So Gingrich, in his rage, drafted two resolutions that forced Clinton to bring the federal government to a grinding halt.
The extraordinary behind-the-scenes tale Gingrich told yesterday morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast is either comedy or tragedy, or junior high school cafeteria intrigue, take your pick. It surely was not what you expect to hear from the stewards of your government.
Gingrich had been invited aboard Air Force One last week to fly to the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. With a budget crisis pending, he expected Clinton would take time out during the flight to talk about a possible solution.
But Clinton, who seemed to be genuinely grieving over Rabin's death, stayed up front in a cabin with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush on both the outward-bound and return trips.
Then, when the plane landed at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington, Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole were asked to deplane by gasp! the rear door.
"This is petty," Gingrich confessed. "I'm going to say up front it's petty, but I think it's human. When you land at Andrews and you've been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off by the back ramp . . . you just wonder, where is their sense of manners, where is their sense of courtesy?"
To Gingrich, the professor of history, this was one of the snubs of the century, ranking, he said, with the time Charles Evans Hughes stiffed Hiram Johnson of the California Progressive Party back in 1916, a slight that cost Hughes the California vote and the presidency. And it was this disrespect, Gingrich continued, that caused him to send the President two temporary financing and spending bills he knew that Clinton would have to veto thus shutting down the federal government.
Nelson died in 2000, so he wasn't able to see the legacy of his column. But the power of his portrait of the crybaby Gingrich is clear from skimming the news -- not just in Washington, but around the country -- in just the past couple weeks:
- "Observing his slide in the polls, Newt Gingrich has reverted to type. In this case, the type is cry baby. It has been his standard pose every since he threw a temper tantrum back in 1995…" The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin on Gingrich's complaints about negative ads, December 21, 2011.
- "'I'm a grandfather now,' he frequently explains. The implication: his days of adultery and temper tantrums are behind him." -- The Wall Street Journal's Douglas Belkin, December 28, 2011.
- "Once again, here are our predictions for the year ahead… Gingrich fails to place higher than third in the South Carolina primary, then throws an on-camera tantrum in which he claims that he has the right to subpoena all of the voters in the state to come to Washington and appear at a hearing to explain themselves." -- Dusty Rhoades in The Pilot, a North Carolina newspaper, January 1, 2012.
- "But as illustrated by the protester’s cartoon... the strategy carries a danger of reviving an old image of Mr. Gingrich as thin-skinned and tantrum-prone." -- from the Times story reporting the protester's cartoon, January 4, 2012.
- "There are two unintended consequences of this campaign-turned-public temper-tantrum." -- the Post's Rubin again, this time on Gingrich's concession speech in Iowa, January 4, 2012.
- "But if you can't convert a surge into an electoral win, if you can't effectively rebut opponents' charges without resorting to tears and tantrums, and -- most damaging for Gingrich -- if you can't put people on the ground in places like Iowa and Virginia who can deliver votes and signatures when it counts, how can you win a general election?" -- Michelle Malkin for Human Events, January 4, 2012.
- "First, there was the ungracious 'concession' speech by Newt Gingrich, a temper tantrum lasting through the following day." -- RedState's T.B Rickert on Gingrich's Iowa concession speech, January 5, 2011.
- "But the former speaker is putting his ego ahead of his brains in his strident, almost tantrum-like attacks on the frontrunner." -- The Boston Herald's Wayne Woodlief, January 6, 2012.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.