This morning, RealClearPolitics.com runs a Q&A with Dick Armey excerpted from my book.
In particular, we talked a bit about what went wrong in 1995, when the Republican Revolution went off the rails:
What went wrong with the government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996? How did the Republicans miscalculate?
Newt’s position was, presidents get blamed for shutdowns, and he cited Ronald Reagan. My position was, Republicans get blamed for shutdowns. I argued that it is counterintuitive to the average American to think that the Democrat wants to shut down the government. They’re the advocates of the government. It is perfectly logical to them that Republicans would shut it down, because we’re seen as antithetical to government. I said if there’s a shutdown, we’re going to get the blame. Here’s the other thing: You’re heard saying rather boldly in June that you’re going to shut the government in the fall. You’ve set the stage for the press to report that the Republicans are now doing in October what they said they’d do in June. Even if, in fact, they thought it was the right strategy to shut down the government, they should have kept their mouths shut about it. The fact of the matter is what happened was, they honestly believed that Clinton would not shut down the government. It was a fiasco that was harmful and dangerous to us because we made it that way.
How could the Republicans have done things differently in 1995?
Just keep our mouth shut, go through the year, stick to our guns, stand quietly on the ground that we had, live by continuing resolutions until we break them. What we did was we precipitated a political confrontation, and we got our butts kicked. If we had just quietly done the nation’s business, and let it drag into the next year — it did anyway — I think Clinton would have come along. What you had to do with Bill Clinton was don’t give him any schmooze. The quiet “no,” this is what he couldn’t deal with. If you take me out in the back street with Muhammad Ali and give me a gun, I’ll shoot him, right, and nobody will notice, but if you let me get in the ring with him, he’s gonna kick the tar outta me. Clinton, if you give him the political arena, he’s a Muhammad Ali. Newt thought he was big enough and smart enough and strong enough to handle Clinton, so that’s what it was really about. Newt was really swelled up with — the speaker’s a very important job, I’m a really important man, I’m as important as the president. He had a compelling need to prove that the speaker was as big as, or bigger than, the president. A lot of it was naïveté on our part. We’d never been there before. Quite frankly, I look back at it, we did a remarkable job for people who’d never been in control of anything. But the idea that we could meet Clinton on his ground and beat him, I just think was naïve on our part.
Dick Armey also had some interesting things to say about the Religious Right:
What’s wrong with today’s Republican Congress?
The criteria of choice in just about every behavior you see in Congress today is politics. Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from? There’s not a conservative, Constitution-loving, separation-of-powers guy alive in the world that could have wanted that bill on the floor. That was pure, blatant pandering to [Focus on the Family President] James Dobson. That’s all that was. It was silly, stupid, and irresponsible. Nobody serious about the Constitution would do that. But the question was will this energize our Christian conservative base for the next election.
There was also this, which wasn’t included in the RCP excerpt:
Why does it seem Christian conservatives are more powerful now than in the 1990s?
To a large extent because Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they’re easy. There ain’t no thinking.
More Q&As drawn from the book should be on the way next week, including ones with Newt Gingrich and Rep. Mike Pence.
But why wait? Buy the book instead!