A Tale of Two Speakers

On January 5, 1995, Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House, the first Republican to do so in 40 years.

Newt Gingrich took the Capital by storm today like many of the generals he has studied — before dawn, with a plan and with an eye on history.
As he achieved his longtime dream of becoming Speaker of the House, his method was also characteristically Newtonian — expansive, buoyant, heavy on the symbolism and a bit disjointed.
His plan included, typically, a symbolic act of defiance. In the weighty moments just before he was elected the first Republican Speaker of the House in 40 years, Mr. Gingrich slipped away from the throngs like an outsider and spoke as a guest on a radio call-in show.
During the program, Mr. Gingrich sat with his helmet of gray hair cuffed by a big headset beneath a wartime poster of Winston Churchill that declared “Deserve Victory!” and took shots at the mainstream media and the Democrats. Then he strode onto the House floor and delivered a generously bipartisan acceptance speech to thunderous applause from his fellow House members and visitors from the other side of the Capitol, including Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, the new majority leader, and the other side of the aisle, like Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts…
Mr. Gingrich’s big day began at a little after 6 in the morning when he arrived at the Capitol. It was to extend until at least midnight tonight because he wanted to be sitting in the Speaker’s chair to gavel to a close the longest opening day in House history.
In between, the House, now his House, with 230 Republicans at his command, passed a flurry of bills to revamp internal House rules. The point was to signify the end of the imperial era, when Congress held itself above the laws of the land, and the beginning of a new era of openness. Not only were many of the day’s activities open to television cameras, but the House voted to abide by the laws that it imposes on everybody else.
After grabbing a cup of black coffee and a banana at a take-out store, Mr. Gingrich arrived at the Capitol for interviews with all the morning network news programs as well as a morning drive-time broadcast interview with The Associated Press. He then attended a prayer service at St. Peter’s Church…
Mr. Gingrich said that when he stepped out on the balcony [of his new office] today for the first time, on what was a crystal-clear morning, he was filled with “the sense of being part of history and part of the romantic myth of this country.” {NY Times, January 5, 1995, p.A23}

Ah yes, remember the “coup” of 1994, led by Generalissimo Gingrich and his cohort of nast, mean conservative Republicans? But never fear, the true heir has been crowned! The Queen has arrived!!!

“We have waited over 200 years for this time to come,” Mrs. Pelosi said on the eve of her selection as speaker, a position that makes her second in line to the presidency after Vice President Dick Cheney.
“We will not just break through a glass ceiling, we will break through a marble ceiling,” she said. “In more than 200 years of history, there was an established pecking order — and I cut in line.”
After calling herself “the most powerful woman in America,” Mrs. Pelosi flexed her right muscle like a weight lifter to much applause at an event yesterday titled a “women’s tea.”
“All right, let’s hear it for the power,” she screamed as the jubilant applause continued.

When Mrs. Pelosi tried leaving the podium, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, asked her to stay.
“There is so much love and warmth that’s in this room today and that’s because of the new speaker,” Mrs. DeLauro said. “And that tells you about what the future is all about in the House of Representatives.”
Yesterday’s event was part of three days of festivities to mark the historic moment. Later, Mrs. Pelosi and special guests dined at the Italian Embassy.
Today will be the official vote by her colleagues installing her as speaker, followed by a “swearing-in celebration concert” in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum.
Tomorrow will feature an “open house for the People’s House,” a nod to Democrats’ professed commitment to the common man. For the rest of the day, Mrs. Pelosi will celebrate her roots with a visit to a statue of her late father, former Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, and later the dedication of a Baltimore street to Mrs. Pelosi.
But wary of accusations of arrogance, Democrats have included other, less celebratory events. Those include a Mass yesterday at Trinity University in remembrance of “the children of Darfur and Katrina and a prayer service this morning at St. Peter’s Catholic Church to honor the troops.” {emphasis added}

Note the difference in tone as expressed by the actual Speakers-to-be. Gingrich “was filled with ‘the sense of being part of history and part of the romantic myth of this country.'” Pelosi referred to herself as “the most powerful woman in America” and exhorted “All right, let’s hear it for the power” to her followers. Methinks, despite the protestations to the contrary, that the “imperial era” has returned.

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17 years ago

Am I taking too much for granted if I say I’m not overly impressed with the election of a woman as Speaker of the United State House of Representatives? And that, actually, I’d prefer to see someone in that position who possessed the appropriate character, insight and motivations rather than the “right” gender? [This is not to say that Mrs. Pelosi does not necessarily also possess the other qualities.]
A female Speaker would be a notable achievement in some place like Saudi Arabia (which, of course, lacks all the accoutrements that surround such a position, starting with some form of democratic governance). It’s not here. None of the various lists of qualifications for an American candidate I have been privileged to hear or review have ever included gender.
All of this may be one of those too obvious observations that should remain unstated. But we have a candidate (H.R.C.) for President of the United States who definitely lacks character and insight and is driven by entirely the wrong motive. My concern is that we will soon be hearing, “Let’s make her president because she’s a woman”.
No, let’s not. Let’s judge her fitness to be president on the basis of many qualities. But not gender.

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