The president's vision of lofty bipartisanship and a kinder, gentler nation now must somehow accommodate a new Republican whip who demands a meaner, tougher GOP minority in the House.
Republicans who dubbed George Bush a lapdog in challenging his conservative credentials during the presidential campaign see Newt Gingrich as their favorite pit bull terrier.Gingrich has a vision of his own - a House in which the GOP becomes the majority party, which it has not been since since Dwight Eisenhower's first term.
The elevation of the six-term ultra-conservative from Georgia to the GOP's No. 2 leadership post in the House was a rejection of the party's Old Guard by its more confrontational Young Turks.
Gingrich, a 45-year-old former history professor, upset Illinois' Edward Madigan by two votes.
The first target of the new GOP militancy in the House is Speaker Jim Wright, the Texas Democrat who is under investigation by the Ethics Committee, thanks largely to the efforts of Gingrich.
Gingrich's combativeness has earned him a reservoir of Democratic ill will in the House.
"Newt probably unites the Democratic Party more than any other single Republican," chortled Majority Whip Tony Coelho, D-Calif.
To win, Gingrich put together a coalition broader than his conservative base. He had the support, for example, of Maine's Olympia Snowe, a friend of the president.
To be effective in the vote-corraling job of whip, Gingrich must change.
He has few legislative accomplishments to his credit, but he has demonstrated a flair for self-promotion. He proved exceptionally adept at getting on camera on the House floor.
Some scoff openly at the notion that Gingrich can gain the cooperation of Democrats. Others even doubt he can work with moderates in his own party.
A transplated Yankee, Gingrich was elected to Congress from Jonesboro, Ga., in 1978 and quickly joined with other young conservatives in pushing supply-side economic ideas.
He has proposed replacing the Social Security trust fund with individual retirement accounts and a value-added tax.
One of the charges against Wright is that he used a questionable royalty arrangement on a book he wrote to get around limitations on campaign contributions.
Now Gingrich has been accused of accepting $105,000 from supporters to promote a book he co-wrote with his wife Marianne and a science fiction writer.
The difference in his tome and Wright's, Gingrich opined, was that his was "a real book."