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I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
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To post relevant news items or videos.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Newt's Rise in the House

Here is an excerpt from the article in The New York Times that I mentioned on Wednesday:

Mr. Gingrich’s arrival in Congress coincided with the rise of C-Span, the cable channel that televised House proceedings, and he figured out early on how to combine his gift for oratory with the power of the camera. Night after night, he would lambaste Democrats, speaking in an empty House chamber after the day’s legislative business was done. Mr. Gingrich would needle Democrats, challenging them to come forward and defend themselves. No one did, because no one was there.

Things came to a head in May 1984, on a day when the chamber was full. Mr. Gingrich had been pounding a group of Democrats over a letter they had written to Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan leader, accusing them of spreading “communist propaganda.” Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., the House speaker, let loose.

“You deliberately stood in that well before an empty House, and challenged these people, and challenged their Americanism,” he roared, wagging his forefinger at Mr. Gingrich, “and it’s the lowest thing I’ve ever seen in my 32 years in Congress.”

It was a rare breach of decorum; Mr. Gingrich had gotten the better of Mr. O’Neill. House rules forbid personal insults, so Mr. O’Neill’s words were “taken down”— stricken from the record, a rare rebuke and a turning point, many here say, in relations between Republicans and Democrats.

“That was the moment he became a real star,” said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor at Claremont McKenna College, who has written extensively about Mr. Gingrich and polarization in Congress. “It was David taking on Goliath.”

Some Republicans were uneasy. Among them was Trent Lott of Mississippi, then the Republican whip. Mr. Lott had called for Mr. O’Neill’s remarks to be stricken. Even so, he says he was uncomfortable with Mr. Gingrich’s take-no-prisoners rhetorical style.

“Newt was willing to tear up the system to get the majority,” Mr. Lott, who supports Mitt Romney, said in an interview last year, before Mr. Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls. “It got to be a really negative pit over there, but that was probably the beginnings of the Republicans being able to take control.”    

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