Newt Gingrich Says: "Tora! Tora! Tora!"
Hoisted from Comments/DeLong Smackdown Watch: Gingrich Was Not Worth Writing About in 1992

Bob Woodward Tells Us Now What He Knew About Newt Gingrich Two Decades Ago

Bob Woodward, October 1992:

Primary Heat Turned Deal Into a `Mistake': [George H.W. BushBudget Director Richard] Darman, [Treasury Secretary Nicholas] Brady and [White House Chief of Staff] Sununu met with five congressional leaders to produce an accord that would avert a government shutdown…. The White House team was pleased with the last-minute agreement… no income tax rate increase, the measure that the administration most wanted to avoid. "It was 90 percent an administration-Darman win, 10 percent for everyone else," said one independent budget analyst.

But this plan ran into bipartisan opposition. Conservative House Republicans, led by Whip Newt Gingrich (Ga.) refused to go along with any plan that included taxes, since many had made no-new-taxes pledges of their own. Liberal Democrats then objected to the Medicare cuts. The House voted down the bill on Oct. 6, resulting in a brief government shutdown of all but essential services.

Negotiations continued, and the budget bill that finally passed the Congress in October was less to the administration's liking…

Bob Woodward, December 2011:

In his debut in Washington’s power struggles, Gingrich threw a bomb: Oct. 4, 1990…. Days earlier, Gingrich had dramatically walked out of the White House and was leading a very public rebellion against a deficit reduction and tax increase deal that Bush and top congressional leaders of both parties — including, they thought, Gingrich — had signed off on after months of tedious negotiations….

[George H.W. Bush OMB Director Richard] Darman called Gingrich…. Gingrich told Darman “you’ve got to go” and said that he wanted Bush to be defeated. Gingrich did not dispute Darman’s version of the conversation, but he said he later told him that he had changed his position and did not want to knock off Bush. “I am a loyalist,” Gingrich said, adding that he worked hard for Bush’s reelection in 1992….

Darman asked [Vin] Weber to mediate…. “It was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life,” Weber said, “because I never intended to be either a psychiatrist or marriage counselor. And the sessions were very much of that magnitude. They both should have been laying down! “I had this very strong sense that I was dealing with a couple of people that had grown up without any friends… a couple of kids that were the smartest kids in their school class but nobody liked them.”

Weber said the two did not have real discussions or disagreements about policy…. “I got pretty bored with it all, to be candid, sitting there listening to these guys talk about, you know, ‘Well I thought you liked me, if you liked me, why did you say that about me?’ ” Weber said….

“I know Newt didn’t want Dick Darman to resign,” Weber said. “Newt wanted Dick Darman to sit down and spend hours and hours talking with him. And set up a process of communication that would make sure that everybody knew that, you know, Newt had Darman on the phone any time he wanted him and had his ear on anything he wanted to.” Weber portrayed Gingrich in various ways throughout the 1992 interview, at one point calling him “a high-maintenance friend and ally, needy” and at another saying that “Newt, as you know, views himself as the leader of a vast, national interplanetary movement.”…

The December 2011 story was in the can back in 1992: the interviewing was all done. But the Washington Post's readers weren't worthy of learning it until last week.

Things Woodward knew in 1992, but that I can find no sign of his having written then:

  1. That the "liberal Democrats" who made up the "bipartisan opposition" to the first Bush-Foley-Mitchell budget plan had never promised to support it--it was, after all, "90 percent an administration-Darman win". Darman, Brady, and Sununu had hung tough in the negotiations because they (i) knew that the Democrats greatly wanted to avoid the shutdown, and (ii) thought that they did not need the votes of the Democratic left because they had the votes of the Republican right: the Republican House leadership, including Gingrich, had all promised to support the deal.

  2. That Gingrich hoped that his double-cross of George H.W. Bush would lead to Bush's defeat and the election of a Democratic President in 1992--and in Gingrich's promotion within the Republican Party.

  3. That Gingrich did not have serious substantive policy disagreements with Darman--that Gingrich's goal was for "Dick Darman to sit down and spend hours and hours talking with him. And set up a process of communication that would make sure that everybody knew that, you know, Newt had Darman on the phone any time he wanted him and had his ear on anything he wanted to."

  4. That Weber saw Gingrich in 1992 as a "a high-maintenance friend and ally, needy" who "views himself as the leader of a vast, national interplanetary movement'…

It would have been very nice for the country if Woodward had reported any of these four back in 1992, when it would have informed the American people about those who were running their government rather than informing them about a candidate with an 8.3% InTrade shot at the nomination who can't get his act together to collect signatures to get on primary ballots. Richard Darman and Vin Weber were both leaving government at the end of 1992--Darman to work for the Carlyle Group and Weber to become a lobbyist. Neither was going to have much value to Woodward as an inside source after the 1992 election.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?