Gingrich And Clinton
"Existential Willie" is the phrase which popped into the mind of Timothy Noah of Slate in 1998. He correctly prophesied that "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" would become a defining moment in the Clinton presidency and noted that rationalizing
to the grand jury about why he wasn't lying when he said to his top aides that with respect to Monica Lewinsky, "there's nothing going on between us." How can this be? Here's what Clinton told the grand jury (according to footnote 1,128 in Starr's report):
"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the--if he--if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."
There is a clear parallel to the GOP presidential race, in which Newt Gingrich pocketed $1.6 million as an influence peddler- uh, er- historian for Freddie Mac which, as every good American knows, was, along with Fannie Mae, the Most Corrupt and Evil Institution In World History.
Gingrich has been put on the defensive for running interference for Freddie Mac and at the Repub presidential debate on Thursday night in Sioux Falls, protested "I never lobbied under any circumstance. I never went in and suggested in any way that we do this." Mitt Romney, perhaps recalling the mutual destruction of Richard Gephardt and Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic race when they criticized each other, was somewhat muted in his criticism of the former House Speaker, avoiding the confrontation he preferred other candidates have with the Georgian. Michele Bachmann took up the challenge, departed from her normal role in the debates as laugher-in-chief, and charged
Well, after the debates that we had last week, PolitiFact came out and said that everything that I said was true. And the evidence is that Speaker Gingrich took $1.6 million. You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding.
And the bidding was to keep this grandiose scam of Freddie Mac going. That's -- that is something that our nominee can't stand for. We have to shut down these government enterprises. And we've got to end them. And I think that's shocking that he's saying that.
The following day, Rick Perry, forgetting that as Texas governor he has considered lobbyists as merely part of his extended- no, immediate- family characterized "the idea that somehow or another ‘I’m a consultant, I wasn’t a lobbyist.’ For most of us, that is a very weak excuse at best."
Condemnation of Gingrich for his hubris, narcissism, flights of fancy, and ideological inconsistency has echoed throughout the conservative world as his poll numbers have dramatically risen and, now, dropped somewhat. But there is that one potential line of attack which appears to have gone unnoticed (or virtually so) among his (GOP) detractors: "it depends on what the meaning of lobbyist is."
Sure, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama have replaced Bill Clinton as Repub bogeymen. But there remains a well of hatred among Republicans, especially among rank-and-file voters, for the 42nd president. Now a part of standard political discourse, "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" has become emblematic of the parsing periodically engaged in by politicians, and which Americans despise.
It goes to the heart of our impatience with details- Gingrich legally was not actually not a "lobbyist"- and goes to the heart of the disgust people hold toward other people being overly technical and not seeing the big picture. The biggest sin committed by Newton, who recently had called for incarcerating Frank and Dodd over what Republicans perceive as their role in the financial crisis, was hypocrisy. But a snide reference to words of the guy Noah termed "existential Willie" and Republicans have derided as "slick Willy" could only damage Gingrich. And that would be a fine Christmas gift for GOP insiders and other Republicans who would like to win a presidential election.
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