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Cleaning House

While visiting the House in the earliest days of Newt's reign, I went to one of his suddenly scheduled press conferences. Newt began with self-congratulations. He was (yet really wasn't) amazed at his historical moment. Reform-minded voters had embraced his "Contract With America." Still, he noted, on today's Contract item -- term limits -- honest revolutionaries could disagree. For example, exactly how many years should a member of Congress be permitted to serve? In a good-faith effort to let democratic debate decide such details, Newt announced he would allow several measures to reach the House floor.

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After deriding a few of the media's questions, Newt signed a blown-up poster of a nonspecific term limit pledge and exited. I rushed after him, but he'd already disappeared into the bowels of the Capitol. I would have asked him: Why did he keep away the main grassroots group pushing term limits? Why was he enforcing military discipline on every Contract item except this one? Didn't that guarantee no limits threatening the new GOP majority would ever be approved?

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