GOP Grudge Match Is Far From Over

For sports fans, the anti-Gingrich coup had the unsatisfactory quality of watching a wrestling match under a blanket, making it hard to tell who was doing what to whom until they all emerged calling themselves honest brokers. But the abortive coup, putsch, uprising - call it what you will - had deeper roots than clashes of personality and ambitions for power.

The Republican revolution has reached that point, familiar to historians, when rebels more accustomed to opposing than governing find themselves called upon to exercise responsibility while the radicals demand to press on with the revolution. That was the phenomenon in the French Revolution that gave us the aphorism about revolution devouring its children.

The House Republicans seem divided between so-called movement conservatives and those they disdain as "go along, get along" compromisers. Speaker Newt Gingrich has shown dangerous symptoms of "go-along-get-alongitis" since his reelection in January, when, chastened by his brush with ethics disaster, he promised to be Speaker of all the people.

Since then he has pursued budget and tax compromises with the administration and has defended his efforts to work with President Clinton on reaching out to minority voters.

He infuriated his top lieutenants by surrendering to Mr. Clinton last month on a stripped-down disaster-relief bill. He even indicated qualms about killing the National Endowment for the Arts.

The immediate fallout from Republican disorientation was to embolden the Clinton administration to press its budget and tax agenda.

Budget director Franklin Raines has seized the opportunity to warn Republicans against "a lurch from the mainstream" that would make compromise impossible. The Republicans have now agreed upon a plan of their own.

The combatants in the coup are acting a little gun-shy at the moment about further combat over their leadership. But the struggle over ideological purity that generated the coup, like the struggle over ideology that tore apart the Democratic party in the 1970s, seems far from over.

* Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst for National Public Radio.

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