January 19, 2010

Democrats "Gingrich-Bush" Shield No Longer A Factor In Northeast

Marc Comtois

Ross Douthat comments on Steve Kornacki's contention that:

… the rise of southern/religious-based conservatism in 1994 — when Newt Gingrich and the GOP won control of Congress — triggered an immediate and enduring cultural backlash among swing voters in places like Massachusetts. Before ‘94, they still saw the GOP (generally) as a big tent party with room for moderate/social libertarian-types. But ‘94 disabused them of that notion and they stopped even listening to Republican candidates.
As Douthat explains, Kornacki dubs this the Gingrich-Bush shield, which, contra what you may initially think, protected Democrats in the northeast. Douthat observes:
Now, of course, both Bush and Gingrich are gone, taking the shield with them, and suddenly northeastern swing voters are willing to consider “voting for a Republican candidate as a way of expressing frustration with the ruling Democrats.” Thus Chris Christie in New Jersey; thus Scott Brown in Massachusetts; thus Pat Toomey’s small lead in the Pennsylvania polls.

Whether this Northeastern G.O.P. surge can be sustained will depend on a host of factors — but Kornacki’s right, I think, to imply that it will depend on whether the Republican Party can find leaders, for 2012 and beyond, who don’t make the party seem too Southern. On this front, though, I think that style and symbolism probably matter more than substance....What turns off Northeasterners, as Caldwell suggested a decade ago, is less a specific issue like abortion than “the broader cultural claims of those who put it forward” — the sense, that is, that a vote for the G.O.P. is a vote for the habits and mores of Alabama or Mississippi (or a caricature thereof), complete with guns in the cupboard and creationism in the schools....

But if you’re trying to be a national political party, you want your leadership to fall relatively close to the American mean culturally, even (or especially) if you’re going to govern from the right or left politically. That means that...if I were a Republican politician from New England, New Jersey or New York, I’d be hoping that the G.O.P. nominates a Mitch Daniels or a Tim Pawlenty in 2012 — so that Yankee voters can pull the “Republican” lever without worrying that they’re casting a vote for the Old Confederacy along the way.

Based on conversations I've had over the last decade with conservative-leaning independents who used to be Republicans, it always seems to boil down to this. It seems silly, but there it is. And, for most of 'em, the same attitude extends to Sarah Palin.

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I drove past a polling place in Attleboro today and noted that there were numerous Brown people holding signs. There were no obvious Coakly supporters.

Perhaps the bloom is opff the rose.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 19, 2010 5:01 PM

Gingrich pioneered a denial of adultery that some observers would later christen "the Newt Defense": Oral sex doesn't count. In a revealing psychological portrait of the "inner" Gingrich that appeared in Vanity Fair (September 1995), Gail Sheehy uncovered a woman, Anne Manning, who had an affair in Washington in 1977 with a MARRIED Gingrich.

"We had oral sex," Manning revealed. "He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I NEVER slept with her.'" She added that Gingrich threatened her: "If you ever tell anybody about this, I'll say you're lying."

Manning was then married to a professor at West Georgia, the backwater college where Gingrich taught. "I don't claim to be an angel," she told Sheehy, but "he's morally dishonest."

Gingrich refused to comment on Manning's charges, though he has admitted sexual indiscretions during his first marriage -- hey, it was the '70s, man! But Newt's oral sex denial proved embarrassing at a time when he was the secular leader of the "family values" crowd, appearing frequently at Christian Coalition gatherings.

During Gingrich's 1995 summer book tour, when he was testing the waters for a presidential bid, demonstrators hounded him about his oral sex hypocrisy. when the speaker appeared at a book signing in Los Angeles and was confronted by a man waving a Bible and shouting, "I want to know here where it says that oral sex doesn't count as adultery." The gentleman was hustled out of the bookstore by the Secret Service before Gingrich could answer his theological question.

I was shocked to read that Clinton was supposedly considering the Newt Defense in the Lewinsky affair and relieved when he came clean, more or less. Anyone who considers oral sex not to be "sexual relations" is either doing it wrong or is a politician.

So don't expect Gingrich to hector Clinton about adulterous oral sex. He's been there and done that. That's a Pandora's Box he'd rather not re-open.

Like Clinton's, Gingrich's sexual history is old, tangled and furtive. Newt himself is the product of a weekend marriage. His 16-year-old mother, Kit, married hard-drinking, brawling Big Newt McPherson, whom she met at a roller rink. But she quit the marriage after just three days when he hit her. "I wanted to break our engagement," the chain-smoking Kit told me at her home in eastern Pennsylvania. "But then we wouldn't have Newtie."

In return for being allowed to skip his child-support payments, Big Newt later gave up all rights to his son and allowed Kit and her second husband, Bob Gingrich, to adopt the boy.

As a high school student -- precocious, lonely, overweight -- Newt secretly romanced his geometry teacher, a buxom, matronly woman named Jackie Battley. The furtive romance with his 24-year-old teacher included nighttime sessions in the back of a car in remote areas of Fort Benning, Ga.

Once, Newt and Jackie were so worked up, they got their car caught in a tank trap on the military base and had to call his best friend to rescue them before a daylight exposé, according to the friend's widow, Linda Tilton. Defying his stepfather, a stern Army colonel, Newt pursued Jackie, married her and promptly had two children.

Jackie Gingrich raised the daughters, worked to put Newt through graduate school and was a loyal political wife during his two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 1974 and 1976. In his make-or-break 1978 race, Gingrich enlisted Jackie to attack his female opponent, who had announced that if elected she would commute to Washington and allow her family to remain in Georgia. At Gingrich's instigation, Jackie wrote a campaign letter declaring that Newt was a fine husband and would take his family with him, although his top aides already knew Gingrich was having affairs and the marriage was falling apart.

The most notorious incident in Gingrich's marriage -- first reported by David Osborne in Mother Jones magazine in 1984 -- was when he cornered Jackie in her hospital room where she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery and insisted on discussing the terms of the divorce he was seeking.

Shortly after that infamous encounter, Gingrich refused to pay his alimony and child-support payments. The First Baptist Church in his hometown had to take up a collection to support the family Gingrich had deserted.

Six months after divorcing Jackie, Gingrich married a younger woman, Marianne, with whom he had been having an affair. They are still married, despite persistent (though unproven) rumors that Gingrich has had other dalliances.

When the speaker was considering a presidential race in 1996, Marianne Gingrich provoked a controversy by telling Vanity Fair, "I don't want him to be president and I don't think he should be."

You can understand why Gingrich may well pause before seeking to impeach Clinton on matters of sexual deceit and immorality. A politician who has been an adulterer, a hypocritical practitioner of oral sex, a cruel and insensitive husband and a deadbeat dad just might want to avoid that sort of public debate.

Of course, Gingrich could go after Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on grounds of violating campaign finance law. But here, too, he is encumbered. Gingrich is still paying off his $300,000 fine by the House Ethics Committee for financial improprieties. And his own history of fund-raising, book deals and marketing of his controversial televised college course is riddled with conflicts of interest.

Moreover, there may be no more hypocritical photo op available than the 1995 Clinton-Gingrich handshake in New Hampshire, when both pledged to seek genuine campaign-finance reform. Ever since, Gingrich has done whatever he could to stymie such legislation, even when it's sponsored by a Republican such as Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Last Saturday Gingrich blithely attended an extravagant fund-raiser outside Seattle at the estate of a man who admitted violating federal election law and paid a $5 million fine. Thomas Stewart, the chief executive of Food Services of America, hid $100,000 in GOP campaign contributions by making them in the names of his employees. Stewart recently completed two months of home detention.

Attending Stewart's fund-raising picnic doesn't seem like the kind of thing a speaker of the House should do just before embarking on a crusade to nail Gore for allegedly soliciting "hard money" donations from his office, or probe Clinton's notorious 1996 fund-raising escapades. But Gingrich went anyway.

When it comes to sex, money and the White House, Gingrich is wise to remain hesitant to resume his once obligatory role of attack dog. Better that he growl harmlessly, while staying securely on his leash.

Posted by: ANON at January 19, 2010 7:42 PM

It's good to see the nation GOP recognize the Northeast for the first time since the wide-eyed Southern boys bumrushed John Chafee out of the leadership 15 years ago.

Posted by: rhody at January 19, 2010 8:17 PM
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