It has been awhile since Our Lady of The Magical Dolphins, Peggy Noonan, has graced these, well, not pages, so probably your computer screen or maybe cellphone or whatever electronic geegaw you use to for that internet thingy. But Peggy is back and making the case that “the media” (which she is not a member of despite her WSJ column and the teevee appearances) is going to seduce and have its way with the 2010 class of Young Idealistic Republican freshmen like they were naive small-town girls fresh off the bus in Hollywood.
And while Peggy doesn’t want them to hold back from letting their freak flag fly, she offers up a cautionary tale of Republicans Past whom the media dated, dicked, and then dumped:
The mainstream media this January will be looking for the nuts.
I saw this in 1994, when the new Republican Congress came in. The media had a storyline in their head then, too: These wild and crazy righties who just got elected are . . . wild and crazy. They focused their cameras on people who could be portrayed as nutty, and found them. The spirited Helen Chenoweth, freshman from Idaho, talked a little too much about “black helicopters.” She was portrayed as paranoid and eccentric. Bob Livingston, from New Orleans, went to his first meeting of the Appropriations Committee wielding a machete. The new speaker, Newt Gingrich, was full of pronouncements and provocations; he was a one-man drama machine.
It was a high spirited group, and one operating without a conservative media infrastructure to defend them. They and others were caught and tagged like big wild birds, then released into the air, damaged.
I’m sure that there were some other members of that ill-fated class of ’94 who were a little bit nutty, but couldn’t Noonan have chosen examples who were a little less slutty?
Days after she began airing commercials urging President Clinton to resign over his affair with a White House intern, Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth yesterday acknowledged a long-term affair with a married man in the 1980s.
The two-term Republican’s admission to the Idaho Statesman is the latest sign that the Monica Lewinsky imbroglio has transformed the media and political culture, opening the floodgates to the sort of sexual investigations that the press once largely avoided.
“Fourteen years ago, when I was a private citizen and a single woman, I was involved in a relationship that I came to regret, that I’m not proud of. . . . This was in my past, and I’m very sorry,” Chenoweth, 60, said in a statement yesterday. “‚. . . I very much regret that this once-private episode is now causing our families pain once more.”
Chenoweth’s six-year affair was with a longtime business partner. Vern Ravenscroft, 78, a former state legislator and onetime candidate for governor, also acknowledged the affair to the Statesman, saying it ended 14 years ago.
Harriett Ravenscroft, his wife of 57 years, told the paper that Chenoweth was responsible for the affair. “They were business partners, yes, and it went beyond that and it shouldn’t have,” she said. “I want it forgotten and put behind us. I don’t see how Helen can live with herself and do this.”
For one thing, 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.”
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.
Oh, about that.
“We don’t know. We just don’t know. If you find out, let me know. It’s a mystery.” So said Marianne Gingrich, the soon-to-be ex-wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, when asked why she thought Newt was being a hard-ass in the divorce proceedings he initiated against her.
We were talking Tuesday morning in a courtroom in the Superior Court of Washington, minutes before the latest hearing in the case, and I remarked that it was hard to make sense of Newt’s scorched-earth approach to the divorce, which has already revealed his six-year-long extramarital affair with congressional aide Calista Bisek and tainted whatever was left of his image as a family-values Republican.
And Robert Livingston:
In announcing that he had occasionally “strayed from my marriage,” House Speaker-designate Bob Livingston (R-La.) rejected the advice of other senior Republicans and agreed with his wife to disclose the affairs immediately, according to congressional GOP sources.
The timing of the announcement Thursday, on the eve of the debate on the impeachment of President Clinton over the alleged lies about his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky, troubled some GOP leaders. The disclosure also angered a handful of conservatives and moderates who believe he should have confessed before he ran for speaker last month.
Livingston, 55, made his disclosure in a series of meetings Thursday with other leaders, rank-and-file Republicans and Gingrich after being tipped off by a Louisiana political associate the day before that Hustler magazine was preparing a story about his extramarital relationships.
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt said in an interview yesterday that four women have come forward to say they had been involved with Livingston, one in the past three to four years. He said their stories are being carefully double-checked and will be made public, on the Internet and perhaps in Hustler, shortly after Jan. 1. Hustler is investigating charges of infidelity involving about a dozen members of Congress and senior government officials, he said.
“I think the contrast between Bob’s admission and telling the truth about this . . . and the president’s lying under oath and to the American people about his transgressions is profound,” said Rep. John Edward Porter (R-Ill.).
Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-Md.), who sat next to Livingston during the morning debate on impeachment, said he told the speaker that “we’re inside your skin.”
Oh, ick. I could have done without that “we’re inside your skin.” but since he brought it up.