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Responding to Newt Gingrich's troubles // The graceless speaker should resign his post

There are good years and there are bad years for all of us. One year of bad luck seems like plenty. One year of good fortune seems not nearly enough. The truth is that good times and bad do not work on a clock and are not assigned a timetable. Sometimes one good year flows directly into another and another. Sometimes the bad ones follow the same path.

We are reminded that the details of any given event, good or bad, matter less than how we react to our fortunes _ good or bad _ at any given time. That's good, because the theory emphasizes the necessity of trying to continue learning and growing from day to day regardless of fate.

"Sometimes I think we've been put here just to see how much we can take," a friend said to me once. He was having a series of bad days. I understood what he meant and did not consider it to be a completely pessimistic outlook on life. Proving you can take a punch has its merits.

"Grace under pressure" is what Ernest Hemingway used to look for in his most heroic characters. It's a characteristic worth developing because you'll certainly need it throughout life.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a perfect example of a man who does not have it. He has not been gracious, either in victory or in defeat. He can't win well, and he can't lose well.

He will not remember 1996 as a good year, particularly if members of the House use common sense and moral criteria in assessing the depth of the problem that Gingrich has created with his admission of false statements to the ethics committee. He has lied. He has admitted it. Now he must go. It's that simple.

Gingrich is a loudmouth and a bully. I've yet to meet anyone surprised by his lying. Hard to find, however, are my friends who were crowing over the victories two years ago that gave Republicans control over the House of Representatives and Gingrich the speaker's job.

They were easy to find, see and hear in those days. They were waggling their fingers in people's faces, telling them that Gingrich and the GOP were going to finally straighten out the mess in Washington created by decades of Democratic and liberal control of Congress.

Gingrich had a "Contract With America," and a mandate for change and a bully pulpit to preach from.

Today, all we have is a broken contract with America, and Newt the preacher has become Newt the breacher. If Gingrich had any graciousness, he would simply resign and leave us alone, but he is unlikely to do that because he is so filled with the moral arrogance that is symptomatic of those of his political ilk. They truly believe that they have been anointed to save us from the sins of democracy, and whether they adhere to any standard of decency or not matters little, if at all.

Contrast Gingrich and his behavior with the man he drove from office, Fort Worth's Jim Wright. Wright is a man who could win and lose with grace and dignity. I was relatively new to Fort Worth when Wright ran into his own problems with the ethics committee shortly after he was elected speaker. Looking back, I see myself at that time as being unnecessarily judgmental about Wright _ probably too harsh.

Not long after Wright had come back home to Fort Worth, I began to view him differently. I had met the man only a few times but had read about him frequently. Now I had the chance to begin to know him as Jim Wright, citizen. Jim Wright, human being.

Over the years I have come to marvel at the style and class he has displayed in the transition. I've also had the chance to talk to him and read his writings, which display not only his superb and precise articulateness but also the depth of the development of his political beliefs and moral soundings.

Jim Wright has not shown an ounce of bitterness or rancor even though he must feel some of both. Offered the chance to chastise Gingrich, he has always deferred and taken the high road.

Confronted by those of different beliefs and ideologies, he does not become shrill and battering. He attempts reason over emotion. He might even resort to the Socratic approach because he is a learned man of tremendous depth.

If a man such as this could not continue as speaker of the House, then surely a man as shallow and petty as Newt Gingrich should not either. Wright, of course, would never say that. But I'm certain he'd be more than happy to teach Newt how to handle things during a bad year. Newt never imagined that he'd need Jim's help, but he does. He needs to learn about grace under pressure.

Richard L. Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.