Not even his worst enemies would say Newt Gingrich doesn’t think big.
As a young back-bencher in Congress in the late 1980s, the representative from Georgia filed the ethics charges that brought down a Democrat House speaker and launched his own trajectory to the House speaker seat a few years later.
He even made headlines during his presidential campaign in 2012 by proposing to build a “permanent base” on the moon. But his latest idea for a Donald Trump presidency could be even more far out than a lunar colony fit for a Heinlein novel.
Gingrich wants the president of the United States to actually be able to fire incompetent employees of the federal government.
With his name being floated as a potential Trump running mate, Gingrich broached the idea of a quick and easy method for firing federal employees during an interview Monday with the Daily Caller. And he used one particularly egregious example of government ineptitude to try to make the case for what the new Congress working with a President Trump should do.
“The first thing they have to do to be successful is pass a law allowing them to fire incompetent bureaucrats. Just take a look at the Veterans Administration,” Gingrich said.
“You cannot manage the Veterans Administration until you can manage the people who are there.”
Does it make sense? Of course it does. Private companies fire inefficient employees all the time instead of making customers, co-workers and ultimately the business itself suffer because a few people can’t seem to get to work on time or do what they’re being paid for.
But as Gingrich notes, it would take congressional action to give the executive branch the power to do that. And right now, that doesn’t seem likely.
As the National Review’s Kevin Williamson has pointed out, firing federal employees is virtually impossible — even when they’re documented to be spending their hours on the government payroll watching pornography on government computer systems.
During the Obama administration, federal employees at the scandal-ridden VA have been impervious to firings because of civil service protections. VA Secretary Robert MacDonald claimed in February 2015 that “900 people” had been fired because of problems with caring for the nation’s veterans; but fact-checker Politifact investigated and rated the claim “false.”
At the even-worse-scandal-ridden IRS, employees involved in targeting conservative groups to help President Obama’s reelection in 2012 not only didn’t lose their jobs, the most infamous, Lois Lerner, was allowed to retire on a fat, taxpayer-funded pension. (And needless to say, the Obama Justice Department found nothing wrong with the IRS anyway.)
So, federal employees can watch pornography on government time and not get fired. They can neglect needy veterans and not get fired. They can even violate the rights of American citizens and not get fired. The men and women of Congress have known this for years and not done anything about it.
And Gingrich wants the president to be able to fire government employees just for being incompetent?
He’s dreaming. But then so were the relatively few people who thought a realty TV star named Trump had any real shot at the presidency when The Donald dove into the political waters some 11 months ago.
And he built a reputation on telling people, “You’re fired!”