Then-House Speaker Newt Gingirch (R-Ga.), left, and President Bill Clinton discuss continuing budget talks on Dec. 30, 1995, in Washington. (Keith Jenkins/The Washington Post)
In his Feb. 6 Sunday Opinion column, “Newt Gingrich started us on the road to ruin. Now, he’s back.,” Dana Milbank wrote that I “embraced white nationalism long before [Donald] Trump’s rise. When Pat Buchanan launched his race-baiting primary challenge to President George H.W. Bush in 1992, Gingrich boosted Buchanan.”
In the election, I supported President Bush against Mr. Buchanan and called on Mr. Buchanan to bow out. My first day in office in 1979, I co-sponsored a bill to put a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Capitol. I joined then-Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Calif.) in moving to change the Reagan-era policy on South Africa to make it anti-apartheid. I helped pass the Africa free-trade bill.
Mr. Milbank asserted that I “popularized the idea that Democrats weren’t just wrong — they were criminals.” My first action concerning Democratic House members who were criminals involved then-Rep. Charles Diggs (Mich.), who had been convicted of 11 counts of mail fraud and received kickbacks from his staff and was sentenced to three years in prison. He was by definition a criminal. I insisted he quit voting while he was out on appeal. That became a rule of the House. As for my involvement in the ouster of then-House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), an Ethics Committee chaired by a Democrat concluded that Wright had to resign or be forced out.
Mr. Milbank wrote that I “pioneered the now-common refusal to negotiate, which brought hopeless gridlock and dysfunction to the political system.” We reformed welfare, Medicare, telecommunications and the Food and Drug Administration and passed the only four consecutive balanced federal budgets in Mr. Milbank’s lifetime — with Democrats voting with us.
I learned from President Ronald Reagan to be a tough negotiator but to always try to get an agreement.
Newt Gingrich, McLean