In his new book, "Lessons I Learned the Hard Way," House Speaker Newt Gingrich cites what he said at a Monitor breakfast as the "single most avoidable mistake I made during my first three years as Speaker."
In his account the speaker writes that all he intended to tell us that morning of Nov. 15, 1995, was this: that the President had missed a wonderful opportunity to talk to Sen. Bob Dole and himself about the mounting budget crisis when they had been together for 25 hours on the plane trip to and from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's funeral.
Let Newt provide the setting for the breakfast that came a few days after that trip: "We were in the middle of the first of the government shutdowns [Over the budget]. I was trying to explain [to the reporters] how hard it is to do business with the Clinton administration and why, fatefully, we had in the end been prepared to let funding for the government lapse in order to force a confrontation over the balanced budget."
Here Gingrich in his book describes how he admits one of the biggest gaffes in his career came about:
"If he [the president] is genuinely interested in reaching an agreement with us, I said [to the reporters] why didn't he discuss one with us when we were only a few feet away on an airplane? Then I continued, digging my grave a little deeper, if he wanted to indicate his seriousness about working with us, why did he leave the plane by himself and make us go out the back way? I said it was both selfish and self-destructive for the president to hog the media by walking down those steps from the plane alone instead of showing a little bipartisanship precisely when he claimed he wanted to reach an agreement with us. My reaction, I said, was petty but human."