When the disgraced Speaker of the House Jim Wright resigned in 1989, ABC's Jim Wooten gave America these almost tearful words:
And if his moving speech today does not restore those decencies he so wistfully remembered today, then perhaps history will remember that at least he tried.
When Majority Whip Tony Coelho quit a few days later, Barbara Walters, also of ABC News, waxed poetic about his passing:
It seems to be a personal tragedy as well as perhaps one for the country.
But how do you suppose ABC News treated Newt Gingrich on the day after his resignation in 1998? Carole Simpson was the newscaster that day. She said:
Good evening. A new poll from ABC News shows Americans will not miss Newt Gingrich. Seventy percent approve of his decision to step down as Speaker of the House. And ninety percent say his successor should try harder to work with the Democrats instead of against them.
It would be easy to gloss over this recurring theme of media bias, but you just can't avoid it. And you damn sure can't avoid it when you're speaking of Newt Gingrich. Newt became the poster child for the American left during the Clinton years. You couldn't see an advertisement for a Democrat during that period without seeing a picture of his opponent in some either real or Photoshopped embrace with Newt.
What made Newt so hated, politically? That one's easy. In 1994, he took the House of Representatives away from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years. He was the main force behind the 1996 and 1998 victories which retained that majority for the first time in 74 years. The Democrats haven't gotten it back yet. Nor are they likely to do so any time soon. The House is where tax legislation is enacted, and the Democrats are lost without the power to tax. It's the way they've socially engineered the country for so many years, along with activist judges who create laws from the bench which would never be passed legally, by a legislative body. That is why you are seeing the Senate Democrats, right this minute, go to unprecedented extremes to deny a vote on Miguel Estrada for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. They are in panic mode that President Bush will appoint judges who do not share their philosophy on judicial leftist activism.
But what made Newt such an easy target to hate, personally? What made him such a liability to the "Republican Revolution" (the media tag for it) which he had started? That one is a bit tougher. We're obviously in an age of easy targets when they're white, and Newt was about as white as they came. Puffy, too. Folks find it easy to pick on the puffy kid. Newt was the Pillsbury Dough Speaker. If he'd been wearing horn-rimmed black frame glasses, it would have been even easier. Newt had worn horn-rimmed black frame glasses when he taught at Tulane in the late 1960s. If he was not exactly a faithful family man, it would have been easier. He wasn't exactly a faithful family man. I'm sure you can see the problem.
Newt's dad was a hardened soldier, a lieutenant colonel in the US Army. He spoke at least three languages and had been passed over for promotion more than once because he failed to take any bullshit from his superior officers. When Newt's mom and dad got divorced, his real dad worked a deal: He'd allow the stepdad to adopt Newt if he'd be granted a release from child support payments. Newt's dad was Newton McPherson. His stepdad was Robert Gingrich. Newt gets both his names as well as a whole lot about himself from two very different men.
The step dad, Robert (known as "Bob"), was shocked when he got a call from Newt in 1994; an emotional call thanking him for helping make Newt who he was, the new Speaker of the House. This was surprising, because Bob had always felt as if he and Newt were very, very distant. Bob had been his dad since the time Newt was three years old. Bob was a Democrat. Bob was a disciplinarian. Newt was a willful Republican. I'm sure you can see the problem.
Bob was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, during Newt's high school years, and he went to a high school near Columbus, GA. Newt was voted "Most Intellectual" in his senior class. In the high school yearbook, the quote under his picture read, "Specialization may produce success, but greatness is acquired only through generalization."
Like some other kids, me included, Newt had a crush on one of his teachers. However, unlike any other kid I ever knew, the son of a bitch actually wooed and married her. His stepdad drew a line in the sand over this and told the rest of the family that he'd not be attending this wedding but that they could do as they pleased. No family member attended.
From then on, Newt's family became a sort of distant memory. They watched from afar as Newt took a teaching post at West Georgia College. His stepdad later admitted that at the time he didn't know that his son had even run for Congress twice and lost. His first electoral defeat was in 1974. He had muttonchops and those darn black horn-rimmed glasses. I'm sure you can see the problem. But the lack of a real Republican party machine in Georgia (or any other Southern state) at the time was what Newt saw as a positive. He could worm his way into the political game without fear of more powerful contenders giving him the elbow out of town.
Newt lost twice to a silver-haired Democrat insider, Jack Flynt, in 1974 and 1976, and in 1978 he faced Virginia Shapard, a State Senator. He attacked her on the grounds that, if she was elected, she was planning on leaving her husband and children behind and commuting to Washington, DC. You can see the family values theme creeping in, can't you? You probably know the story of how this same situation helped lead to Newt's damnation. And I'm sure you can see the problem.
A year and a half into his first term as Congressman, his wife Jackie was in the hospital recovering from an operation which was an attempt to remove all traces of uterine cancer. Who knows how family arguments get started? Have you ever been sitting there one minute, happy as a clam, and then BAM within the span of a few remarks been discussing divorce with your spouse? Anyway, the fact that this somehow came up during this hospital visit tainted poor Newt in a way that could not be overcome. It was the prime line on every liberal mouth from then on. "Did you know he divorced his wife while she lay dying? That bastard. That white bastard. That puffy white bastard. That right-wing Clinton-hating puffy lardass whitebread motherfucking bastard who wants to cut the funding from NPR!" Again, I'm sure you can see the problem.
Six months later, he married Marianne. He'd met her at a political fundraiser in Ohio. When he had been in high school, he would discuss the ways he would break the Democrat stronghold on Congress. Did you know anyone like this in high school? If so, how did you treat them? I know what we did, and it wasn't pretty. Newt wore a tie to class in the 1960s. Did you know anyone in the 1960s who wore a tie to class? If so, how did you treat them? I know what we did, and it wasn't pretty. Newt became a professor in order to become a politician. Thus, he abandoned normal academia preconditions, such as publish or perish. He spent his time running for Congress.
When he did finally get elected, he did everything you shouldn't do. Newt arrived in the House of Representatives in 1979. The Minority Leader at the time (and please remember that Republicans had been in the minority there for as long as any of the Congressmen could remember) was the innocently irrelevant Bob Michel of Illinois. It was a strictly "go along to get along" world at the time for the Republicans. Newt got involved with a small group who called themselves the Conservative Opportunity Society, or COS. This was a handful of folks who wanted to finish what they considered the Reagan Revolution. They had nothing but reverence for the Gipper, primarily because of the downfall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. But they were disappointed that Ronnie had never followed through with his plans to do away with the Welfare State they saw America becoming. Newt was a natural with this out crowd, and they would later form the base for his power structure when he did reach his goal of becoming Speaker.
One of the biggest factors in Newt's rise was the presence of C-Span's cameras in the House. Many nights, after hours when everyone else had gone home, the COS crowd would stand before a mostly empty House and give speech after speech about their causes and concerns. The fixed camera might have given the viewer the impression that they were speaking to a full House, and Newt and the boys took every advantage of this camera. Finally, the rumblings in the Hinterlands (that part of the map that you saw so vividly colored Red (as in "blood") after The 2000 U.S. Presidential Election) caused then Speaker Tip O'Neil to demand that the camera pan the chamber to show those folks that no one was there. By this time, it didn't matter. The ideas were planted and the Contract With America was taking shape.
In 1986, Newt took over what was known as GOPAC. This was the Political Action Committee which had been created in 1979 to help Republican candidates win state and local elections. Newt did for them what someone like James Carville would do for Bill Clinton. He would send out "talking points" so that all the local candidates would be singing from the same hymnal when discussing national matters. This is how Newt succeeded in "nationalizing" elections that were considered local heretofore. The all politics is local went out the window when the Contract With America hit the papers and TV Guide in September of 1994. The Contract was actually printed with each promise and voters were asked to put the Republicans in control of Congress and then kick them out the following election if those promises were not kept within the first 100 days of that same Congress. In November of 1994, the GOP won control of the House and almost all of the promises were kept. Hell, even Bill Clinton signed a Welfare Reform bill. I can guarantee you that no one would have predicted a Democrat President signing a Welfare Reform bill prior to this time. Lyndon Johnson was rolling in his grave like a man who hasn't taken a good shit in weeks. Of course, Welfare Reform was the right thing to do and has proven to accomplish everything anyone who was not blinded by the left could have told you: Illegitimate births among minorities are down, income is up, marriage rates are up, etc. It was only common sense, but sometimes that gets lost in DC when "the government is only here to help you" rears its massive head, as it did in the Great Society Programs.
When push came to shove, Newt got shellacked by a better politician, Bill Clinton. It's quite ironic, in a way. Both of them shared so much in common:
They were born only three years apart.
They were both the oldest child of an overly protective mother.
They both had problems with a stern stepdad.
They both wanted to be in politics since they got out of diapers.
They both are natural teachers.
They both eat too much and tried smoking pot when it was cool.
They both like a little stray poontang when it walks in their office.
Neither went to Vietnam.
They both own 1967 Mustangs.
The fatal mistake for Newt was when he bellied up to the bar and called Clinton's bluff on the budget deals which led to the closing down of the Federal Government. Newt underestimated the power of the press as well as the power of Bill Clinton to evoke sympathy. He was right on target when he explained that the GOP wasn't the least bit reluctant to allow Clinton to close down federal operations, because "it's their government, not ours." But there would be sob stories about school lunches gone missing and park rangers who couldn't feed their families run each night on the three networks. Eventually, Bill Clinton would utter those famous words, "The era of Big Government is over!" And you can bet your ass that those words would have never come out of his or any other Democrat President's mouth if it hadn't been for Newt Gingrich. Newt took the hidden secret of the ever-expanding Federal Government and laid it right there on the table for everyone to look at, if they cared. A whole lot of folks cared. I know I did. But this "government shutdown" fiasco hit him in the jaw, and there were ethics complaints being lodged left and right about book deals (ironically, exactly how he had slammed the door on Fort Worthless Jim Wright so long ago) and GOPAC money being used to fund his own reelection in Georgia. When he realized that the little problem of him screwing around on his latest wife was going to become public, he chose to just go away quietly. He walked away from Congress in 1998 and gave it all up. I'd like to think he did so in order not to further damage the cause and the ideas he stood for. That might be a bit idealistic of me, but I watched a series of TV shows back when he was in his heyday.
If you could have seen the joy in his eyes as he taught an American History course which was televised those few Saturday mornings oh so long ago, you might have even enjoyed it (whether you liked what was happening or not). This televised course, too, became part of the screaming and hollering from the left about "abuses of power" and "illegal dealings."
Newt spoke of Ronald Reagan as "the brilliant articulator of a vision that will take a generation to sort out." It would seem to me that just about a generation has passed now, and I suspect your children will be spending money with the Gipper's image on it. You'll probably have no descendants ever who will be spending money with the puffy little whitebread Speaker on it, but the Gipper could not have asked for a better man to help forge forward with that long journey to undermine entrenched liberalism, in the modern sense, in America.
Some factual information taken from Time Magazine in their "Man of the Year" article in 1995.
I was a Quest Virgin, but this is for We Could Be Heroes: tes's Everything2 Heroes Quest.