From Newt, With Love: Ex-Speaker Gingrich Offers Shutdown Advice

PHOTO: Newt Gingrich
Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Newt Gingrich has made a name for himself as a former presidential contender and zoo aficionado, but the recent government shutdown, which is about to enter its second week, has given the former House speaker a reason to remind everyone that he was also at the center of twin shutdown crises in 1995 and 1996.

The 1995 conflict was rooted in disagreements between Congress and President Clinton's addressing the funding of a variety of social programs, as well as balancing the 1996 federal budget. The Republican-controlled House, led by Gingrich, proposed a spending bill in late November 1995 that Clinton promptly vetoed. The veto sent the government into a 28-day-long shutdown.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it does to Gingrich, too. Never one to shy away from giving fellow Republicans -- and even Democrats -- political advice, he's offering it up once again during the shutdown of 2013.

Here are some pearls of wisdom from the former Georgia congressman turned co-host of CNN's "Crossfire":

1.
The President Should Make the First Move and Talk It Out

Gingrich's most-stressed advice to President Obama is simple: Talk it out with the House Speaker John Boehner.

In a recent episode of CNN's Crossfire, Gingrich recalled his time butting heads with President Clinton during the 1995 government shutdown, saying that although two leaders "were in a fight," they still "talked almost every single day."

"Bill Clinton and I would talk, I bet, at least five days a week through the shutdowns, before the shutdown, after the shutdowns," he said. "We met face-to-face for thirty-five days in the White House trying to hammer things out."

Although Gingrich's commentary implies that Obama and Speaker of the House are doing too little negotiating, Gingrich ultimately made it clear that he believes the president should bear the burden of making the first move.

"What I'm fascinated by is that President Obama [has] adopted a policy of scorched earth," Gingrich said. "Is there no willingness to sit down?"

2.
Remember to Watch What Your Staff Says

While actually talking to one another might be key, Gingrich has also pointed out that better communication should be something staff members and advisers consider, too.

Speaking from the conservative perspective on CNN's Crossfire, Gingrich singled out senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer for equating some Republicans with "people who have a bomb strapped to their chest."

Said Gingrich: "That is so offensive to me to have somebody in the White House compare their American political opponents with suicide bombers."

Despite pointing his criticism toward one person in one party, Gingrich offered more general advice by insinuating that understanding where your opponent is coming from rather than resorting to harsh criticism would be a more favorable way to lead to a resolution.

"When you're fighting hard, you kind of understand where the other person's coming from, and they're not some demonized, distant figure," he said.

3.
The House Should 'Stand Firm'

Gingrich also addressed the shutdown standoff between the president and the House of Representatives in more strategic terms.

In a Time Magazine op-ed, he stressed that although "neither side can demand surrender from the other," the House Republicans should not stand down unless the president comes forward with a plan to negotiate.

Conceding without negotiations, Gingrich warned, could have adverse effects on similar disagreements in the future.

"The House Republicans have to stand firm. A collapse of the House Republicans would teach President Obama that he can get away with virtually anything he wants," Gingrich wrote. "It would lead to a frightening three years and ultimately an even bigger crisis."

4.
Keep Parks and Monuments Open

Gingrich's shutdown advice isn't all limited to aiding the president in settling his differences with GOP Congress members; he urged the president to take constituents into account, too.

In a recent Gingrich Productions newsletter, he urged the Obama administration to think of the inconveniences constituents will have to endure during the shutdown, especially when it comes to tourism.

"Tour bus turnarounds require no short-term maintenance and there is no reason for the Park Service to close them other than to cause pain to the public," the newsletter read.

Gingrich also expressed outrage that many monuments were closed in Washington, including the World War II Memorial that veterans attempted to visit earlier this week.

"The memorial was constructed with money raised from private donations, and it operates, according to its website, largely based on a trust fund which pays for its maintenance. There is no reason for it to close," Gingrich wrote.

(Note: parks, memorials and the National Zoo were closed during the 1995 government shutdown.)

5.
Stay Out of the Zoo

On a more personal level, Gingrich made a point of expressing how the shutdown has affected his hobbies by suggesting that the government should back down from commanding operations of the National Zoo.

"I would argue [that] the zoo ought to be run by a friends-of-the-zoo operation with a modest amount of federal money," Gingrich said in an interview with Talking Points Memo.

The famous zoo-goer also said that the closure of the National Zoo in Washington is one of the "really, really sad" consequences of the shutdown, especially given the recent popularity of the panda-cam.

"When you look at something like panda-cam, you just have to ask yourself, 'What are they thinking?'" Gingrich said. "I mean, I will personally pay the cost of panda-cam's electricity."

So far, there is no word on whether the National Zoo has taken Gingrich up on his offer.

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