Gingrich admits budget tantrum

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The Independent Online
The US budget row degenerated into petulant farce yesterday as the White House heaped ridicule on Newt Gingrich for an outburst of pique which the House Speaker admitted had helped prompt the government shut-down.

The rumpus started at a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, at which Mr Gingrich complained about the shabby treatment accorded him and the Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, aboard Air Force One during the round trip to Israel for the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin 10 days ago.

"Every President we had ever flown with talked to us at length," the Speaker said, but not Mr Clinton. "You just wonder where is ... their sense of courtesy ... Was it a sign of utter incompetence, or was it a deliberate strategy of insult?"

The crowning insult appears to have been when the Congressional delegation was asked to leave by the back door of the President's plane at Andrews Air Force Base. Pique, Mr Gingrich confessed, had helped harden his line on the budget.

Leon Panetta, the President's chief of staff, called the Speaker's behaviour "bizarre and petty" and said it was outrageous the government had been shut down "because his ego wasn't stroked".

The New York Daily News depicted Mr Gingrich as a screaming toddler, below the headline "Cry Baby." Newt's Tantrum, it continued, "He Closed Down Government Because Clinton Made Him Sit at Back of Plane."