Clinton and Gingrich get back to political basics

RUPERT CORNWELL

Nashua, New Hampshire

A Democratic President and a Republican Speaker yesterday held an unprecedented joint political meeting that produced much agreement on ultimate goals but underlined the deep party rifts on a host of issues, ranging from health-care cuts and a balanced budget to the future of the UN and America's foreign aid programme.

At a hastily arranged session at an old people's home in Claremont, New Hampshire, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich spent an hour answering questions, in which mutual compliments far outweighed the occasional courteous barb. It was "fabulous", Mr Gingrich said as he thanked the President for the invitation. Mr Clinton was similarly effusive: "This is getting back to basics, the way politics should be."

And indeed the remarkable encounter seemed to propel the normally sharp- tongued Speaker and an increasingly defensive President into uncharted waters of civility - at least in public.

The session was notably devoid of partisanship, but broke little new policy ground, apart from a handshake deal for a joint commission to look into lobbying and campaign finance.

Mr Clinton is embarking on a tough re-election campaign, while the leader of the Republican revolution on Capitol Hill, officially not a candidate for the White House, is behaving exactly like one in the state which holds the first primary next February.

"Showdown," headlined the New Hampshire Sunday News beforehand, But Mr Gingrich disagreed: "We're going to chat." And those who expected blood were to be disappointed. The main differences indeed were well known - most notably on Republican plans to balance the budget in seven years, largely by sweeping cuts in federal health-care programmes.

"There has to be change, but the proposed Republican cuts are too severe," Mr Clinton said, arguing for smaller cuts in Medicare, the government scheme for old and disabled people, and smaller tax cuts than the $350bn plan pressed by Mr Gingrich. The Speaker argued for a step-by-step approach to health-care reform, insisting that the compendious Clinton plan which failed in 1994 had "collapsed under its own weight".

Some of the more spirited exchanges came on foreign affairs. Downplaying the role of the United Nations, Mr Gingrich credited the last half-century of peace to the US and Nato, not to the UN. "If You gave me a choice between three UN secretary generals and one (US) aircraft carrier to keep the peace, I know which I'd choose."

He called for a complete overhaul of the UN operation in Bosnia, calling its command and control structure "a nightmare". But the kind words predominated. Mr Gingrich vowed to give Mr Clinton the "line item veto" sought by the President but currently bogged down in Congress. He also praised Mr Clinton's performance in the Haiti crisis.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence