The Republican leaders who took power in the House in 1994 spent most of their adult careers collecting money from big government they claimed to despise. They were generally insignificant or only marginally successful otherwise, and they did not serve in the armed forces. They served in the House of Representatives as a cluster of truly poor and misguiding leadership for the full 12 years they held power. This assessment comes a bit late, since all this was easily visible from the beginning, but Dick Mayer at CBS News tells the tale.

Politicians in this country get a bad rap. For the most part, they are like any high-achieving group in America, with roughly the same distribution of pathologies and virtues. But the leaders of the GOP House didn’t fit the personality profile of American politicians, and they didn’t deviate in a good way. . . .

The iconic figures of this era were Newt Gingrich, Richard Armey and Tom Delay. They were zealous advocates of free markets, low taxes and the pursuit of wealth; they were hawks and often bellicose; they were brutal critics of big government.

Yet none of these guys had success in capitalism. None made any real money before coming to Congress. None of them spent a day in uniform. And they all spent the bulk of their adult careers getting paychecks from the big government they claimed to despise. Two resigned in disgrace.

Having these guys in charge of a radical conservative agenda was like, well, putting Mark Foley in charge of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. Indeed, Foley was elected in the Class of ’94 and is not an inappropriate symbol of their regime.