Saturday, March 31, 2007


The Resurrection of Newt

He's not even announced he'll run yet. Just the same, folks on the Right are practically tripping and falling over each other to see who'll be the first to cast a presidential ballot for Newt Gingrich.

It's amazing to me that Gingrich, who left office under a cloud of shame in 1998, presumably never to be heard from again, has been resurrected as the next great hope to revitalize a moribund Reagan Revolution. I've watched this coming slowly, year by year. It started sometime around 2000 when he began cautiously rearing his head on the Sunday morning talk circuit. Apparently he was feeling his oats enough by Sept. 12, 2001, to boldly ascribe blame for the previous days' events on President Clinton, who had already been out of office nine months. Since then, he's become a fixture on the punditry circuit. His reinvention has been complete, it appears, as he poses as some sort of wise elder statesman, not the repugnant and foul ideologue who as speaker of the House ruled our nation as a twisted prime minister.

Since the Right, ever a crew of revisionists, seems to once again be reinventing history to suit its political agenda and get its man into the White House, let's revisit Newt's salad days, circa 1992-1998, and recall what sort of man he was in his prime and what we could expect from him as president.

* By his own admission, Newt is an adulterer and an incredibly hypocritical one at that. At the very same time he was leading impeachment proceedings agains President Clinton for lying about Monica Lewinsky, Newt was having an affair with his very own bimbo. That's old news from a few weeks ago. But it turns out that Newt is a serial adulterer not much different from Clinton. You can read all the salacious details here and here.

* We've heard the one about Newt presenting his first wife, Jackie, while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. The spinmeisters on the Right have insisted with great desperation that this never happened, but I'll just quote Jackie herself: "He walked out in the spring of 1980.... By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said, 'Daddy is downstairs. Could he come up?' When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from my surgery." Gingrich doesn't exactly deny, he just says he doesn't remember that. Not only that, but Jackie had to take Newt to court to get him to pay his fair share of household bills. These days Newt is on wife No. 3, a former Congressional aide, 20 years his junior, with whom he was having an affair during his marriage to wife No. 2.

* Newt, who led the charge against Democratic sleaze in 1994, spoke piously while mired in his own ick. Have we forgotten Newt's $4.5 million book deal with Harper Collins? The book publisher in question, which paid him the exhorbitant amount in 1994, was owned by Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing owner of the right-wing Fox and FoxNews channels. As coincidence has it, Murdoch also was facing some licensing issues at the time and was needing a little help from his friends in Congress.

* Then there was the GOPAC scandal. GOPAC was a political action committee that worked behind the scenes in a complex organization that Tom Delay would no doubt envy, designed to funnel taxpayers money into political organizations. For example, there was his charitable group designed to pay ghetto kids to read books, which actually was used to funnel contributions to his operatives. This was the last straw in a series of ethical breaches for which Newt was forced to resign from his speakership in 1998. How soon we forget all this.

* You remember the House banking scandal, don't you? Blame for that largely fell on Democrats (with a lot of justification), leading to their 1994 demise. What you may have forgotten or not even have known in the first place is that Newt bounced 22 checks himself.

Let's put aside this illusion once and for all that ideologues on the Right really care much about ethics and morality. This is all about power and an agenda in which questionable ends justify rotten means, and Newt Gingrich is just the latest example.

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