The budget reduction package is back on track today after having been briefly derailed chiefly by Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican congressman who is a leading practitioner of scorched-earth politics.
Appearing on ABC-TV's "Nightline" early this morning, Gingrich looked a little like the cat who had swallowed the canary. But before it's over, we predict with some confidence, he will look more like the snake who swallowed the pig, because in the end Gingrich is going to have to swallow a much more distasteful budget compromise, from his point of view, than the one he scuttled last week, to the great embarrassment of his president. The final package most likely will include a trade-off of a capital gains tax reduction in return for a higher marginal income tax rate on the wealthiest -- the very package which the Democratic negotiators proposed throughout the four months of difficult negotiations and which Gingrich wrecked in one night.
If this dismal exercise in governmental irresponsibility has proved nothing else, it has proved that Newt Gingrich is simply unfit for leadership in a political system where separated power requires compromise. He may be of some value as a gadfly who sharpens public debate, but he will never be a leader. It's time to relegate Gingrich to the back bench where he belongs.