I’ve had it in my desk drawer for 23 years: a pink plastic pacifier, tucked into a piece of glossy card stock, with a cartoon of a diaper-clad Newt Gingrich brandishing a baby bottle and stomping his foot, and the caption, Now Boarding … Rows 30-35! It’s a treasured artifact of the 1995 government shutdown, when Gingrich confessed he’d forced the closing of the federal government partly because Bill Clinton had relegated him to a rear cabin aboard Air Force One on the way home from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Jerusalem.
Gingrich, then speaker of the House, triggered the shutdown that November by sending Clinton a stopgap spending bill he knew the president wouldn’t sign, because it raised Medicare premiums and cut environmental regulations. Clinton’s veto forced the closure of most of the federal government for six days—ostensibly over a point of principle.
But Gingrich soon confessed, at a press breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, that he had acted partly out of pique, because Clinton had seated him at the rear of the presidential plane and not talked to him on the long flight back from Israel. Moreover, Gingrich was forced to exit via the plane’s rear stairs—with the press and low-level aides.