President Newt

by H. Scott Prosterman

In one of the most dramatic scenes from In The Heat Of The Night, the Sheriff played by Rod Steiger conducts a police station interview with an underage girl about a sexual encounter one fateful night. Finally, Rod screamed, "Did things go too far?" "YES, " the girl screamed back, "THINGS WENT TOO FAR!"

Do you think Newt Gingrich's run for the 2008 Presidency is a sign of things gone too far? No underage girls ever scandalized him, but since Newt's a Republican, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. The prevailing political sentiment these days is the acronym IOKIYAR (It's OK If You're A Republican.)

Newt, we hardly knew ye'. And now you're back.

The former House Speaker whipped the rank and file in line with his "Contract With America", challenged the moral turpitude of non-Republicans everywhere, then left office on the heals of his own scandals and ineptitude. Newt's prospective run for President smacks of hubris. That's different from Chutzpah. It looks like Bush Jr's re-election has empowered Gingrich and likeminded minions everywhere. "Anything is possible." Says Newt.

The old Contract With America is gone. In its place: A New Improved 21st Century Contract With America. On the other hand, Newt's candidacy might just be a gimmick to sell his new book on The New Improved 21st Century Contract With America. But is it considered Presidential to serve one of your ex-wives with divorce papers WHILE she is on her cancer deathbed?

Newt has developed his platform by second-guessing the CARBs (Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Bush). He questions strategy in Iraq, the size of the Intelligence community, patriotism, and he's saying the post-war plan isn't working. WHOOAH, NEWT! We know you've been gone a while, but you can't just re-enter the stage, and attack these sacred cows without even saying, "To be or not to be . . ." At least show some sense of conflict. "What a piece of work is man . . . how noble in reason . . . how infinite in . . . "* forgetfulness . . .or something like that. Hey, let's just invade Norway while we're in the mood; after all, things are going quite well. While we're at it, let's take Elsinore and make it another Crawford Ranch.

As a loyal party guy, Newt is spinning this by saying the CARBs didn't make any mistakes. He says, all the problems in Iraq were the fault of that inept civilian administrator, Paul Bremer, the proud new owner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The CARBs were too busy promoting Bush Jr's re-election to shorten the leash on Bremer, so he loused it all up when the others weren't looking. No reflection on the CARBs, honest, Newt's still a party guy.

So . . . is this a sign of a real life Future Shock, and will his close friend Alvin Toffler become a Cabinet guy. Or is it just another sign of the apocalypse? I don't know if they're actually ready; I thought they wanted all the Jews in Israel first. But with a sci-fi guy as our next president, the little details of reality can be tweaked. Bush Jr. would make a good sci-fi guy, except that he doesn't like to read. But I hear he "likes to watch", as did Chauncy Gardner. Chauncy's people floated the idea of a President Chauncy, but realized he lacked the hubris of Newt. It's all about Being There.

Can you believe that Newt once taught Environmental Studies at West Georgia College? Newt qualified this by saying: "I love the environment, but I'm cheap on the environment." I guess that makes him the Adam Smith of environmental protection. That same free hand that regulates the market, . . . well, you know.

Selected quotes from Newt lead me to wonder if he really holds the Presidential office in its proper esteem and if he'll take the job seriously. After all, he did say recently, "If the Soviet empire still existed, I'd be terrified. The fact is, we can afford a fairly ignorant presidency now." Is that a reflection on what we have now, or a measure of Newt's overconfidence? Ah, hubris!

Let's not forget that Newt was Time's Man of the Year in 1995. That was before the old "Family Values" guy revealed his 6-year affair with Congressional aide Calista Bisek, and the original contract was rendered not such a good thing. But Time is not that picky. Mao and Hitler have also graced the cover, so did Reagan. It's all about impact.

And what about this "Contract" thing? Memories, like colors, run together and fade, so let's review. The primary theme of this "Contract" was punishment. The introductory platitudes talked about rewards, but that pales next to the primary theme. Southern boys are big on paternalism, and southern daddies love taking their boys out to the woodshed. Though he was born in Harrisburg, PA, Newt is southern to the core.

Punishing poor people was the most attractive selling point of the Contract for many Republicans. We'll let the "Contract" speak for itself in selected passages:

  Title 1
  Sec. 101. Reduction or denial of AFDC for certain children whose paternity is not
  Sec. 105. Denial of AFDC for certain children born out-of-wedlock.
  Sec. 106. Denial of AFDC for additional children.
  Sec. 107. State option to deny AFDC benefits to children born out-of-wedlock to
  individuals aged 18, 19, or 20, and to deny such benefits and housing benefits to
  such individuals.

  Sec. 401. Ineligibility of aliens for public welfare assistance.
  Sec. 402. State AFDC agencies required to provide information on illegal aliens to
  the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
So, children of poor parents were to be punished with less food or none at all. I wouldn't exactly call Newt a racist for this. True, he would have punished the 62% of black families whose children are born out of wedlock. But Newt is an almost equal opportunity Draconian. 22% of white families would have suffered too. Those figures are from Newt's own website.

He tried to put the state human service agencies in charge of reporting in illegal immigrants to the INS, but they balked. They say they're too busy helping people. Does Homeland Security know about this?

Newt wanted huge tax credits for marriage and adoptive parents, as a means of encouraging "family values." But, if state financed even one abortion, it would stand to lose all of its federal aid eligibility.

More from the "Contract":

  Title 2, Sec. 201
  (3) prohibit the States from providing adult welfare recipients with
  more than 2 years of education or training;
Read: Like drugs, education can be too much of a good thing.

We thought we'd seen the last of Newt in 1999 when he slinked away and married Ms. Bisek. Somehow, he felt empowered by Bush Jr.'s re-election. Forget the bad war, bad economy, and bad global press. It's all good; and it's all OK if you're a Republican. They've already got their sights on the pesky old separation of church and state thing. Have things gone too far? Mister, we could use a man like Hoober Heever again! Or at least Rod Steiger. Is Chauncy Gardner still available?

*(Hamlet, Act II, Scene II, Line 115)