Last night, Newt Gingrich asserted at the end of the debate that he had been personally committed to conservative activism far longer than any of the other candidates on stage. As evidence of that claim, Gingrich said that he attended a Goldwater organizing meeting in 1964:
I went to a Goldwater organizing session in 1964. I met with Ronald Reagan for the first time in 1974. I worked with Jack Kemp, and Art Laffer and others to develop supply side economics in the late ’70s. I helped Governor Reagan become President Reagan. I helped pass the Reagan economic program and worked with the National Security Council on issues including the collapse of the Soviet Empire.
However, Drudge uncovered this clip from an interview in 1988 in which Gingrich says he worked for Nelson Rockefeller during those years, who opposed Barry Goldwater’s conservative efforts in the GOP:
As the Palm Beach Post explains:
During one of his characteristic name-dropping riffs in Monday night’s GOP debate, Newt Gingrich said he “went to a Goldwater organizing session in 1964,” first met Ronald Reagan in 1974 and worked with supply side icons Jack Kemp and Art Laffer in the late 1970s.
The reference to Barry Goldwater‘s 1964 campaign is an important one for conservatives. Though Goldwater was buried by LBJ in a general election landslide that year, Goldwater’s campaign contributed to the rise of Reagan (his “Time for Choosing” speech was made on Goldwater’s behalf) and is regarded as the moment when the GOP began embracing conservatism rather than the more liberal brand of Republicanism symbolized at the time by New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
If you carefully parse Gingrich’s claim, he never actually said that he backed Goldwater. Gingrich merely stated that he attended a Goldwater organizing session in 1964, when Goldwater became the Republican nominee against Lyndon Johnson. That wouldn’t surprise anyone, given Gingrich’s intellectual curiosity and his political ambition; why not go and see what Goldwater’s team had to say? Still, Gingrich offered this as evidence of his long-term commitment to the conservative cause, and never mentioned his work as a Rockefeller organizer — for which he seemed apologetic by 1988 in this clip, offering that nugget as a bit of a confessional to underscore how well he understood both sides of the GOP divide.
If you polled baby boomers as to whether they attended Woodstock, you’d probably find that 30 million people went to that concert. I’d put this in the same category as a harmless bit of spin. Whatever else one says about Gingrich, he’s certainly been in the trenches for a very long time.