How We Got Here—Newt Gingrich Edition

(Third in a three-part series)

Full disclosure — I do not like Newt Gingrich — never have — never will.

Newts are salamanders, small, slender-bodied amphibians. They, and Newt share one common characteristic — slimy.

Newt also reminds me (as does Rudy Giuliani) of an STD, they never go away. Both Newt and Rudy are graduates with distinction of the Donald Trump University of “Damn, I’m Amazing.” I would wager that all three have stacks and stacks of videos or CDS or Bluetooths of themselves on TV. And they drift into slumberland each night while watching them.

The Donald, Rudy, and Newt also share another trait, adultery. In fact at the very same time Congress was impeaching President Clinton, Newt was fooling around on his second wife. What is it about the number three — all three have had three wives. I would have thought they would have kept up with Rush Limbaugh and be on their fourth. There’s time.

Newt’s #2 and # 3 were two decades younger. Men. Newt reportedly served divorce papers on wife #1 while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer. I think it was Lili von Shtupp who said in Blazing Saddles: “Ah, what a nice guy.”

Gingrich served two decades in the House, representing Georgia, rising to Speaker in 1994. He lost the Speakership in 1998 when the Democrats did so well in the House of Representatives in the middle of President Clinton’s impeachment. He ran for president in 2012 and was not doing well until he won the South Carolina primary, after which, Newt, not known for humility, bloviated that he would be the Republican nominee.

As for our Capitol Hill discourse over my lifetime, I will admit to being baffled about senators referring to each other as “my esteemed colleague from” fill-in-the-state. I knew better. Decorum is welcome — bullshit is not.

With few exceptions, presidential campaign political ads were not in the toilet. Two exceptions would Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964, essentially saying Goldwater could not be trusted with nuclear weapons. It worked.

Then there was Lee Atwater’s ad for George Bush against Michael Dukakis in 1988 — the infamous “Willie Horton” ad. The ad, dripping with racism, insinuated that electing Dukakis would open up the prison gates for murderers and felons running amok — Blacks, of course. Live in fear. It worked.

And then along came Newt, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1994, and the political discourse changed forever.

In 1990, Newt, with the help of pollster Frank Luntz, released his glossary to describe both Republicans and Democrats. The cover letter was titled, “Language, a Key Mechanism of Control,” and encouraged candidates to “speak like Newt.”

Steve Anthony, a lecturer at Georgia State University said, “The things that come out of Newt’s mouth…we have never heard that before from either side. Gingrich went so far over the top that the shock factor rendered the opposition frozen for a few years.”

Retired Democratic Congressman Barney Frank told the New York Times, “He (Newt) transformed American politics from one in which people presume the good will of their opponents, even as they disagreed, into one in which people treated people with whom they disagreed as bad and immoral. He was a kind of McCarthy-ite who succeeded.”

Former Republican Congressman Pete McClosky said this about Gingrich, “He was pop-off, and nobody thought of him as anything but a pop-off. But he conceived that for the Republicans to gain power, they needed to treat Democrats as weak and unprincipled and as people who were going to sell the country down the road…and the Democrats were an evil thing to the country. From that time on, the contempt Gingrich has felt for the Democrats, the concept of them as enemies of the country has lasted beyond Gingrich’s time. We’re so far from where we were when I was in Congress, when people were more decent to one another even when they disagreed.”

This blog is not about words spewed by private citizens at our elected officials, though it is ugly, and often scary.

What Kathy Griffin tweeted about Donald Trump was disgusting and she was properly chastised for it (the Los Angeles Times reported that it tanked her career) and she apologized for it. But Kathy is not an elected official, only a D-List celebrity.

There are not enough words in a 1,000-page nonfiction tome to capture all of the disgusting things private citizens have said about presidents and the Congress, just since 2000.

Let’s not forget another memorable Reagan pronouncement — turning the country against government. “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Thanks, Ronnie.

Here is Newtspeak: Republicans should glowingly describe themselves with words like:

flag,

freedom,

truth,

moral,

family,

children,

principled,

success,

liberty,

vision,

hard work,

common sense,

protect.

In describing Democrats, Newtspeak said Republicans should use such words as:

welfare,

taxes,

liberal,

traitors,

failure,

collapse,

decay,

crisis,

destructive,

sick,

pathetic,

lie,

unionized,

shallow,

hypocrisy,

waste,

incompetent,

corrupt,

disgrace,

steal.

It worked.

(Interesting to note that those storming the Capitol on January 6th chanted, “Stop the Steal.”)

Today, those labels seem vanilla, almost like playground banter. Today, the Styx River flows beneath the body politic of our capitol.

Now we can add the label of pedophiles and child eaters to Democrats.

In terms of the isms, many Republicans cannot make up their minds as to whether Democrats are Communists, Socialists, Atheists, Nazis or Fascists, seemingly oblivious to the meaning of any of the isms, except for Atheism, because if Democrats cannot be Christians, ergo they are atheists. For the most part, Democrats have zeroed in on Fascists in labeling Republicans. Brevity matters.

One female January 6th storm trooper is now under arrest, partly for being recorded saying this on that fateful day, “We were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the friggin’ brain, but we did not find her.”

Now, we have learned that Congresswoman Greene from Georgia once liked a post in 2019 that proposed “a bullet to the head” as a way to remove Nancy Pelosi.

Trump retweeted a video saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” initially posted by a public official in New Mexico. We have gone from the pronouncement that Democrats cannot be Christian to the above tweet by the President of the United States. Did mention this was a tweet from the President of the United States?

For his unwavering fealty to Trump, Newt’s third wife, Calista, was given the plum assignment as Ambassador to the Vatican. Newt had converted to Catholicism years ago. No doubt Newt helped himself to platters of pasta and gobs of gelato. I hope Calista put a GPS ankle tracker on Newt when he was not with her.

Newt still gets his ego-serving TV facetime as a paid commentator on the “fair and balanced” station.

The vitriol hurled by private citizens at political leaders has now been matched by language in the halls of the Capitol. Our capitol was stormed by “patriots,” evangelicals, and consumers of “fair and balanced” media.

Beginning with Jerry Falwell, then the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, and then Newtspeak, here we are. This is how we got here.

It will take a long time just to crawl out of the cesspool of the Styx River and onto its banks. And it will take even longer to remove the stench.

Writer of books, columns and blogs; historical fiction, humor, satire, social commentary. Cook (the good, bad and oops). Disaster relief volunteer. Traveler.

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