Geek show

Sheesh. Sest lah vye, Mabel.
I'll say one thing for the results of Tuesday's plebiscite: it is sure as hell going to be interesting for the next couple of years.

What an utterly fabulous cast of characters. Strom Thurmond, 92, chairman of Armed Services. Jesse Helms, chair of Foreign Relations. Alphonse D'Amato, chair of Banking. Orrin Hatch, chair of Judiciary. And in the House, Speaker Noot.

I must confess that once the election started to break Republican, I was rooting for all of them and was terribly disappointed when both Ollie North and Michael Huffington bit the dust. You have to think entertainment at times like this, and the rule is: the more outrageous, the better.

It brings to mind the glory days of the Reagan era, when he kept appointing people like James Watt to jobs like secretary of interior. You could never tell whether he meant it as a joke or not.

One thing we can say in favor of the results is that at least it will clear up the confusion on the Blame Patrol. We've all been pointing fingers in 360 different directions, and now it's simple: we get to blame the Republicans.

Texas is in relatively good shape. There's nothing actively wrong with Shrub Bush, and as we keep reminding you, the governor of Texas does not have much power.

But given the fiscal irresponsibility of Republicans, Clinton should remind these folks that the economy is now growing, the deficit is going down, and any change in those conditions will be on their heads.

Aside from that, I look forward to a fantastic display of gooniness, spiced, of course, by the piquant sight of our newly elected Republican leaders trying to kill each other off as they vie for the nomination in 1996.

A people whose stomachs were strengthened by the Reagan years should be able to get through this laughing all the way.

The most fun guy to watch in the New Regime is House Speaker-elect Newt Gingrich. The reason you want to keep an eye on Gingrich is that he plans to improve your morality, and he's just the fellow to do it.

You may not have had the improvement of your morality in mind when you voted to get the government off your back Tuesday, but here in the New Regime, many things are wondrous.

Gingrich explained to The New York Times the other day that the country has been in a state of moral decline since the 1960s, and that he plans to root out the remnants of the counterculture and the Great Society. Said Gingrich: "Until the mid-1960s, there was an explicit, long-term commitment to creating character. It was the work ethic. It was honesty, right and wrong. It was not harming others. It was being vigilant in the defense of liberty."

Yep. You want to know right from wrong, you check with Newt here in the New Regime because Newt knows.

Gingrich spent the first part of the dread 1960s at Emory University in Atlanta, at a time when many who felt strongly about morality were involved in the civil-rights movement. He was not. Like President Clinton, being a graduate student--in Gingrich' s case, already married with children--kept him out of Vietnam. He went to Tulane, where he was also not involved in the pre-eminent moral issue of the late 1960s.

Gingrich, the man who put term limits in the Contract with America, was first elected to Congress in 1978 after two earlier, unsuccessful races.

He was, of course, strong on family values. In 1980, he filed for a divorce from his wife, Jacqueline, after 18 years of marriage. While they were separated, she had her second operation for cancer. Gingrich went to see her in the hospital to discuss the terms of their divorce.

In 1993, Jacqueline sued Gingrich for failing to pay his $1,300 monthly alimony on a timely basis and for failing to pay the premiums on a life-insurance policy for her. He settled the lawsuit by agreeing to give Jacqueline the first $100,000 coverage in his life-insurance policy. Gingrich remarried in 1981.

Easily, the most notable contribution to our political life made by Gingrich during his congressional career has been the level of rancor and vitriol with which he practices politics. So impressive were Gingrich's thrusts at the opposition that in 1990, the GOP issued a list of them--words that Republican candidates should use to describe their opponents so they could be successful, like Newt. The words are: sick, pathetic, traitor, welfare, crisis, ideological, cheat, steal, insecure, bizarre, permissive, anti-(issue) and radical.

Let's look at that list again because we're going to be hearing quite a lot from Mr. Gingrich, and not only in person. As he has announced, he will be using Rush Limbaugh and Christian-right radio and television programs to communicate his ideas. Sick, pathetic, traitor, welfare, crisis, ideological, cheat, steal, insecure, bizarre, permissive, anti-(issue) and radical.

Such language, here in the New Regime, will be helpful in solving problems, such as how to get health-care coverage for 40 million Americans, how to get people off welfare, how to create decent-paying jobs, and give people the skills to do them.

This brings us to the First Rule of Newt-watching: Whatever he accuses his opponents of, look for carefully in his own behavior.

Gingrich recently told a group of lobbyists that he was, to put it crudely, shaking down, that his election strategy was to portray Clinton Democrats as "the enemy of normal Americans" and proponents of "Stalinist measures."

I'm fond of hyperbole myself. But when politicians start talking about large groups of their fellow Americans as "enemies," it's time for a quiet stir of alertness. Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.

Stay alert.
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Copyright 1994 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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