Newt’s Nontraditional Language, with a Tip of the Hat to Mr. Orwell

“Of all the unmitigated gall.”

That phrase was used often in the Fifties and Sixties for someone who had the audacity to, while his hand is clearly in the cookie jar, say “My hand isn’t in the cookie jar.” In a classic moment on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show (see how old I am?), because Steve would often say “of all the unmitigated gall,” someone sent Steve a little vial of unmitigated gall and it broke him up spectacularly.

Newt Gingrich does not lack unmitigated gall. He’ll announce tomorrow that he’s running for president. That alone qualifies him for the Steve Allen line, considering how he torpedoed his own party by overreaching in the Clinton impeachment.

But the fabulous thing, the Orwellian thing, is how he’s handling the inconvenient little spill of hypocrisy that’s staining his nice white shirt — the affair he was having while he was going after Clinton for having an affair.

That affair resulted in another marriage to his current wife Callista, 22 years his junior. As Newt sails into the primary season dancing with the family values conservatives in his party, here’s how Callista’s chief of staff refers to their union, according to today’s New York Times: “Ms. (Karen) Olson summed up their history in what might just become a campaign catchphrase. ‘They’re a great couple,’ she said, ‘that had a nontraditional start.'”

A nontraditional start. Fantastic.

Bill had a nontraditional meeting with Monica. John Wayne Gacy had a nontraditional relationship with boys.

I’m not criticizing Newt for affairs — I’ve had ’em. I’m not criticizing him for multiple marriages. I’ve had ’em. I’m not even criticizing him for hypocrisy — I’ve been there myself, too many times. But spectacular, Hall of Fame hypocrisy — of all the unmitigated gall.

I’ve always called Newt “Newt the Poot,” since he started his career giving endless blowhard speeches on Special Orders in the House — Special Orders meaning the remarks were deep in the night to an empty chamber and the camera was forbidden to pan the room to show that the speakers were gassing only to themselves and their overweening sense of self.

Good luck at that president thing, Newt. You take yourself so seriously none of the rest of us have to.

— Bruce Benidt

32 thoughts on “Newt’s Nontraditional Language, with a Tip of the Hat to Mr. Orwell

  1. PM says:

    But do you really think that he is serious about this?

    See, i think that Newt, Inc., requires that Newt’s persona have a certain gravitas, and that his prior service as Speaker is beginning to wear off. He NEEDS the attention that a presidential run will bring him.

    Politics as ego. Now, that is traditional.

  2. PM says:

    you know, if you want to base your language use in reality as opposed to some quaint, oft quoted but little followed, values system, Newt and Callista’s start is probably fairly traditional…..

    just sayin’…..

  3. Erik Peterson says:

    Gall – yes, perhaps

    Orwellian – No, describing this as Orwellian is a misuse of the concept. We don’t descibe mundane, non-institutional misappropriation / misapplication of words as Orwellian

  4. MN Newt says:

    So he’s got the libido of a Teddy Kennedy or a Bill Clinton, what’s your real beef with Newt?

    1. PM says:

      maybe its the hypocrisy? i mean, he was trying to impeach the president, saying that he was unfit to serve in that office because of clinton’s relationship with lewinsky, at the same time he was doing the exact same thing with callista.

      If, by Newt’s own standards, Clinton was unfit to serve as President, why was Newt fit to serve as Speaker?

      1. Erik Peterson says:

        It had nothing to do with an argument about fitness. It was a criminal proceeding. If Gingrich made an argument about ‘fitness’ per se, I don’t recall it. Maybe you’re offering the Orwellian interpretation though.

        Nonetheless it does take gall to be having your own affair while orchestrating impeachment. If he had suborned perjury, we could more rightly call him a hypocrite.

        Other problems with the conventional wisdom here:

        Gingrich is not really a man of the evangelical right, and never was.

        Impeachment didn’t torpedo the party. That’s one of those counter-intuitive counter-factuals.

      2. PM says:

        Clinton was accused of perjury (the criminal proceeding) because he was accused on not telling the truth about his “relationship” with Lewinsky.

        At the same time as Newt was calling for the impeachment of Clinton (who would be unfit to serve because of having committed perjury), Newt was committing adultery (he was married until his divorce in 1998, after he stepped down as Speaker). Until 2003, adultery was illegal in GA (http://facstaff.gpc.edu/~wbroadwe/gamarriage.htm), so Newt was also breaking the law, by having an affair. And, although he was not asked under oath if he was having an affair (and so did not commit perjury), I’d still call that hypocrisy.

      3. Erik Peterson says:

        He’s a hypocrite, not much bones about that.

        Hypocrisy has been cheapened unfortunately. It’s like, meh, so what.

  5. MN Newt says:

    I think what really irks liberals is that Newt is smarter by a factor of 2x than any of them. He’s a brilliant ideas guy, but a modest politician and a morally wretched man.

    I wouldn’t mind him being Secretary of State. Americans are tired of namby-pamby diplomacy. Newt will hold Ameica’s ground.

    1. john sherman says:

      “Newt is smarter by a factor of 2x than any of them [liberals]”? The only thing he’s smart about is separating conservatives from their cash and conning the bookers for gasbag shows to putting him on air despite a record of no real accomplishment other than producing an endless stream of books and videos that are so vacuous nobody bothers to review them anymore.

      Another form of hypocrisy, the family values politician put his kids from his first marriage on the the parish. Clinton and Gingrich may or may not be equally lousy husbands, but Clinton is an infinitely better father. And Clinton has managed to only have one marriage however odd it may be.

    2. Festus says:

      More smart people:

      A bill that would make it a misdemeanor — and in some cases a felony — to misrepresent the size, weight or provenance of a fish in a fishing tournament arrived on Gov. Rick Perry’s desk on Wednesday, after passing the State Senate in a unanimous vote on Monday.

  6. Gary Pettis says:

    I enjoy reading Cosmopolitan magazine on occasion and remember once digging into an insightful article titled “Why Women Stray.”

    A quote from the article went something like this, from a woman who had been married less than a year: “I met Bob at an industry conference and he could make my blood boil over like my husband never could.”

    As human beings, we are vulnerable to those blood-boiling moments when we meet someone to whom we are intensely attracted. We are perhaps better people if we walk away from such temptation if already in a primary relationship. To give in to temptation means that the primary relationship could be damaged severely or destroyed.

    When Gingrich was outed for having an affair with the woman who is now his wife, we knew that the word “affair” meant the whole kit and caboodle. In Clinton’s case, he strained to explain his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and the national conversation albeit briefly was about what constitutes sex and what doesn’t constitute sex. By not being forthcoming about the true nature of the relationship, Clinton seemed evasive (and was not truthful) like someone involved in a coverup. Clinton’s impeachment was about perjury and obstruction of justice, not the whole kit and caboodle.

    I am not one to judge the deeds of both men. Still, it’s unfair to bugle the word “hypocrisy” enthusiastically because both situations were radically different. There’s no gall at all.

    And all of this went down, of course, before the phrase “my bad” was invented.

    Considering today’s mores, there probably wouldn’t have been impeachment proceedings if Clinton could have said: “I had inappropriate relations with that woman, and am begging my wife, daughter and family for their forgiveness. It was the ultimate my bad, and I am so sorry about the hurtful things that my behavior have caused.”

    1. PM says:

      With Newt, it wasn’t just a case of the blood boiling–there was also the matter of long term, major illness having recently been diagnosed with his wife (both the first and the second). Seems to be an important part of the pattern. i just hope that Callista never suffers from a serious illness…..

      1. Erik Peterson says:

        I think we’re going to have to diagram this and weigh the call.

        Bill Clinton: married to a frigid harpy, plus had some child of alcoholic thing where he craved acceptance and approval… so rather than get divorced he just crassly cheated on his wife hundreds / thousands of times, took advantage of and / or exploited starstruck women who were strangers to him…

        Newt Gingrich: lost interest in his wives, undoubtedly had an ego to be gratified as he gained prominence. … had a couple long term affairs (as far as we know) with women he ended up marrying.

        Both pretty galling. In the absence of a clear winner, I think we’re going to have to make an examination of the moral equivalence. Gingrich loses there. He’s a Republican and does not have the benefit of being a good person. He’s therefore worse by comparison in any comparison to Democrat. In this case, he’s got more unmitigated gall.

      2. PM says:

        I think you need to add this liltle twist for Newtie–he dropped his wives like hot potatoes just as they were diagnosed with serious diseases.

        http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/08/gingrich_profile_featuring_ex-wife_begets_question.php

        As for Clinton, I don’t even pretend to understand their relationship, but it appears to work for the two of them–consenting adults, no one appears to have been wronged in quite the same way as Newt’s ex wives.

      3. Erik Peterson says:

        I have always liked Newt, but had to read up on him. Hes been gone 10 years. I have no illusions about these guys by the way. Theyre all a little too entitled. Maybe Democrats a little less, if we are to be mindful that there’s no moral equivalence among Democrats and Republicansof equally egregious behavior.

        Where was I …. Oh… I’m under the impression the cancer stories are overstated. Insofar as both ex-wives are still alive, I think thats got to be a given.

      4. Erik Peterson says:

        Everybody Democrat says ‘I don’t pretend to understand’ the Clintons.

        That’s baloney. You’re avoiding a value judgment, which would be as easy as saying ‘they’re weird and galling’. But the value judgment is not made so as to avoid ugly comparisons with people like Gingrich. Which is part and parcel what this argument is about – who’s galling and who’s not.

        It’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s a talker I suppose.

      5. PM says:

        http://www.salon.com/news/2012_elections/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2011/05/13/gingrich_cancer_divorce_daughter

        Maybe what is Orwellian is that the daughter’s version and the wife’s version are so different. Do you think it is the passage of time (almost 30 years between the 2 different versions) or the age of the individuals at the time (teenager vs. adult) or the relationship to Newt himself (bitter ex-wife vs. loving daughter) that might account for this?

        Or could this just be Orwellian campaign spin, an attempt to re-write history?

        One thing that we do know for certain is that memory (including first person eyewitness memory) is often wrong, and changes over time.

        Still, given that Newt is going to run for President, we might all get a chance to judge for ourselves (by voting for or against) the nature of his character.

        I think that we have to treat this as another piece of evidence–not conclusive in itself.

  7. PM says:

    BTW, my reading of this suggests that only the daughter is rebutting the story. Nothing in her column is from her mother, and I see no point where she is speaking for her mother. In fact, after a close reading, even the daughter really doesn’t seem to rebut much at all, although she says that she is doing so.

    All she really does is say that the other version is inaccurate, but the version that she gives does not seem in any way to actually be at odds with the other version–the very few things she says do not contradict the original version.

    Maybe this rebuttal is Orwellian in that it says it is a rebuttal, but actually does not rebut?

    1. Gary Pettis says:

      I want to directly address this judgement of character nonsense based on Gingrich’s divorces, the presumed physical maladies of his ex-spouses, and the assumption that he left his wives because they might have been sickly, frail or on death’s door.

      I’ll contend that most us are ill-equipped or unprepared to address the challenges of coping when a significant other suffers from a chronic illness or debilitating injury. Worse yet, MOST OF US did not receive ideal relationship skill training growing up. That might help explain the current high percentage of divorces nowadays.

      It’s a great Dr. Phil or family pastor question: “Should I stay or should I go if my life’s partner becomes handicapped or gravely ill?”

      It’s the sort of question that most of us will never have to ask. But in these situations, chances are great that the healthy partner will exit the relationship “to move on” because he or she is not equipped to cure, fully comfort and care his or her unhealthy partner. Likewise, and equal on the other side of the scale, chances are great that the unhealthy partner will start actions to end the relationship due to daily relationship strains caused by radically different relationship dynamics.

      I’ve heard horror stories on both sides of this coin involving people of different races, religions and political party affiliation. Hopefully, some couples with counseling and determination can maintain the quality and longevity of their commitment.

      Nonetheless, it’s a herculean effort, and I will not judge anyone, sick or healthy, who cannot realize the outcomes desired from the best of intentions.

      So, how can we make any character judgement calls if we were not at least two degrees of separation from the inner circle of Gingrich’s marriages and family. If we base our judgment on 100 percent of what we find in the news or google up on the Internet, we are still foolish enough to believe that what news we read and what we see in Web pages are 100 percent accurate.

      In sum, I am not going to be the one standing at the Pearly Gates with thumbs up or thumbs down for each soul that passes based on number of divorces and the reasons for those divorces. Are you?

      1. PM says:

        I agree that you will not be the one standing at the Pearly Gates making a judgement call, nor will i.

        On the other hand, I do not find it difficult to believe that at some point in your life you will be voting in an election involving someone who has been in a situation similar to the one(s) you describe. At that time you will be forced to make a judgement (unless you opt to throw up your hands and walk away).

  8. Bill says:

    Couple of points I don’t see addressed in this thread:
    If Bill Clinton perjured himself and Newt Gingrich didn’t, it was only because Clinton was asked under oath a question that WAS NOBODY’S BUSINESS to know (or at least, that historically had been treated as nobody’s business heretofore), and Gingrich was lucky enough not to have been asked the same question. You can say, “So what, perjury is still perjury, ” but I think we need to look at why Clinton was being asked the question in the first place when no other American president had ever been required to put his private life on such public display before. Did his behavior have anything to do with the alleged wrongdoing Kenneth Starr had initially gone out to investigate? No.But Starr , with the backing of the Republicans and big-moneyed corporate interests, was on a fishing expedition, casting his net every which way, desperate to land something. I believe the American people sensed this and saw it as inherently unfair, which is why the impeachment was unpopular and why Clinton was fairly popular by the end of his term.

  9. Newt didn’t “sail into the primary season with family values..” this week. Instead, he sailed into the Greek islands which shows little hunger for the job of President of the United States. Yesterday, all of his top aides quit his campaign.

    Now we’ll see if this brilliant guy can figure out how to make reservations for lunch at the Inn at Little Washington.

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