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A Kinder, Gentler Dick Armey Austin Aw, Armey! Dick, my man, what’s wrong? Dr. No going soft! No fun, no fair. Here I’ve been telling everyone how fabulous the new Texans at the top of Congress are going to be. Wait’ll you see, I gloated. Bill Archer! Tom DeLay! And best of all, Dick Armey! This guy makes Newt Gingrich look like a fuzzy, cuddly bear. I guaranteed it. The reason I guaranteed it is because Newt Gingrich has already achieved the improbable effect of making Bob Dole seem cuddly. I’ve already started thinking of him as Uncle Bob. This is the same Dole about whom Jay Leno joked just last winter, “It’s so cold in Washington, people are huddled around Bob Dole for warmth.” When Gingrich started muttering about putting millions of children in orphanages to be raised by a government that he believes can’t do anything right, some of my compatriots here on what passes for the left were chilled to the bone. But no, I cried, you’ll learn to love Noot! Just wait’ 11 you get a good look at Armey. I spoke with confidence, having followed Armey’s career faithfully from his first campaign in the old mid-Metroplex, when he ran on a platform of abolishing Social Security. Not many people, even at that high tide of Reaganism, were advocating the abolition of Social Security, and I knew I had a live wire even then. Abolish farm subsidies! Torch the Capitol! Go, Armey! One of my all-time favorite Dick Armey moments was when he looked at Hillary Rodham Clinton during a health-care reform hearing and said, “I have been told about your charm and wit, and let me say, the reports on your charm are overstated and the reports on your wit are understated.” That was my man Armeya noted authority, all agree, on both charm and wit. But now, now, damned if we’re not getting a kinder, gentler Dick Armey. He no longer advocates phasing out Social Security. He’s not even going to fight for abolishing agricultural subsidies. Awwww, Dick. Where is the Dick Armey of yesteryear, the one who called the Family Leave Act Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “yuppie welfare”? The man who said the Clinton health-care program was “a Kevorkian prescription for the jobs of American men and women”? Heck, Armey used to say he was “embarrassed” ever to have been a college professor because so much education is “pure junk.” For a while, I was even working on the theory that Armey’s scorched-earth approach to politics was genetic: He has a son, Scott, who has distinguished himself as a Denton County commissioner by pushing for prayer in the schools, an issue that some constitutional purists would consider outside the purview of county commissioners. What do we get now? A kinder, gentler Dick Armey. Now we get Dick Armey telling The Dallas Morning News that in his early years in the House, he “risked being labeled a bombthrower, a loose cannon,” but he learned that “you can be so ideologically hidebound you can cut yourself off from the process.” He says that in 1990, when he was shut out of the budget summit, he learned that you have to have “a place at the table.” And so he ran for the No. 3 spot in the Republican leadership and learned to play the game. And now, here he is at No. 2, just another perfectly good bombthrower we sent to Washington, only to have him turn into a politician. Sure, Armey insists that he has learned about Washington from being in the Congress since 1984. I say it’s another reason to be for term limits. At least Armey still believes in supplyside economics. It was such a success during the Reagan years that he wants to try it again. And he still believes in a flat tax rate. Why should Ross Perot pay any more in taxes than thee and me? But you can tell the old fire is gone from Armey. All this disgusting talk about being conciliatory and learning from experienceyuck. Sounds like Jim Wright. Maybe Clarence Thomas will have some success in getting Armey back to his good old ways. The justice is Armey’s good friend, and when they go fishing together, they catch supply-side fish. Speaking of Brother Thomas, let me commend to you a new book, Strange JusticeThe Selling of Clarence Thomas, by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson. Anyone who bothered to read The Real Anita Hill should read this one as well, if only to see what carefeul, thorough journalism can produce when applied to a mystery. This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, oil and gas companies, nuclear weapons and power plants, political hucksters, underpaid workers and toxic wastes, to mention a few. I i l= <61 t , ,, fp ..., ;F 4412,11: ' : 411" 1\\Q , : t il l ' if l Atk '''" ---C--,:4 811 BUT 7' DO NOT I DESPAIR! n u , THE TEXAS 1 40/1 server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 MOLLY IVINS THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13