Six days after Newt Gingrich took to national television to denounce the preliminary report of President Obama’s debt commission as “a job-killer,” the Republican co-chairman of that commission fired back at a press breakfast in Washington on Friday morning.
Rather than address Gingrich’s specific criticisms, however, commission co-chairman and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R.–Wyo.) launched into a tirade about the former Georgia congressman’s role in the events of 1990 that led then-President George Bush to break his pledge on raising taxes—recollections that, upon close scrutiny, are inaccurate:
“I know Newt very well—we were assistant [Republican] leaders together; he was assistant leader in the House,” recalled Simpson in response to HUMAN EVENTS’ question at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast about Gingrich’s criticism of the debt commission report. “I was very disappointed in Newt when he was part of the Andrews Air Force Base group [of White House and congressional leaders in 1990] when they got George Bush the First to say [he’s] got to break his pledge and if you do, we can save the country: We’ll get two-year budgeting, comprehensive health reform, we’ll get everything—there’s a lot of stuff in it.”
And, as the 79-year-old Simpson remembered it, “Newt said ‘That was good.’ And then he went to the House and voted against it and said ‘Well, I was for it when I was out there,’ after George Bush made his ultimate sacrifice of ‘read my lips.’ And then Newt said ‘now as a Member [of Congress], I’m against it.’ And then he voted against it, along with [California’s far-left Democratic Representatives] Pete Stark and Henry Waxman. Go look at the roll call vote on that one!”
“So I don’t have a lot of thorough appreciation for his comments.”
“Simpson is engaged in historical revisionism,” shot back Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s top spokesman, hours after the former senator’s version of the 1990 budget talk: “Gingrich consistently opposed tax increases during the entire negotiating process, arguing forcefully that taxes would worsen the recession. And Gingrich was excluded from the so-called ‘super summit’ where the final budget deal was struck at the end of September 1990 because of his ‘extreme’ views on holding the line on taxes.”
Tyler reminded HUMAN EVENTS that, while the Number-Two leader in the House GOP hierarchy, Gingrich rallied 126 Republicans (or more than half the GOP Conference) to vote against the final budget and refused to appear at a White House press conference with fellow congressional leaders to announce the budget deal. A look at contemporaneous reporting of the developments surrounding the 1990 budget deal confirms the recollections of Gingrich’s spokesman, not Simpson’s. According to the Associated Press (July 2, 1990), “Apparently, when Gingrich first heard about it he couldn’t believe it. A heated argument over the telephone with White House Chief of Staff John Sununu ensued.”
“The President made a mistake on Tuesday and I think it has been a severe blow to the President’s credibility and a significant blow to the Republican Party,” Gingirch said. “I do not think he has to raise taxes. I’m willing to say in the summit but I’ll just say flatly that I think it is an error to give in to the Democratic Party.” (Associated Press, Steven Komarow: WASHINGTON TODAY: Tax Issues Gives Gingrich His Ultimate Challenge, July 2, 1990).
The late Robert Novak agreed. In his memoir, The Prince of Darkness, Novak referred to 1990 and noted that “[A]s House minority whip, Gingrich participated in the bipartisan budget summit at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. He was outraged by the veto given Democratic leaders there and was the summit’s sole dissenter from the tax increase deal [emphasis added]. Gingrich and Sununu once had conferred daily. Now they did not speak to each other. Gingrich was persona non grata [at] the Bush White House.”
As was usually the case, Bob Novak had the facts right. So, apparently, does Gingrich’s man Tyler. Alan Simpson does not.