As former "right-wing hit man" David Brock pens an abject apology to President Clinton, perhaps the media need to send an open letter of apology to Newt Gingrich. For years now, they've recalled the stump speech from 1992 when Gingrich compared the Democrats' stands on families to Woody Allen, then infamous for carrying on a romance with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, an adopted daughter of his companion, actress Mia Farrow. But was it a gaffe - or an eerie vision of the Democratic Party to come?
Now, as Clinton refuses to respond to public inquiries about an alleged sexual relationship with a 21-year-old intern, DNC Chairman Steve Grossman boasted Tuesday that "This is the most unified Democratic Party in years" and that donors "are not only renewing, they are increasing their contributions. Far from having a depressing effect, it has had a galvanizing, energizing effect on us." If being charged with having sex with 21-year-old interns causes your donations to go up, what kind of family values do the Democrats embrace?
In 1992, Gingrich took exception to the Democratic platform claiming "governments don't raise children, people do." He claimed "If they had tried to use the words 'families raise children' in Madison Square Garden, half their party would have rebelled and they would have had a bloody fight. So they tried to finesse it, to sound conservative without being conservative." Later, Gingrich added: "Woody Allen having non-incest with a non-daughter to whom he was a non-father because they were a non-family fits the Democratic platform perfectly." The media lit up over the remarks:
The Washington Post wrote "the Democrats, whose presidential ticket is headed by two Baptists who are regular churchgoers, fired back." Post reporter/columnist David Broder huffed: "Last week's charges...were a reach - and a feeble one at that." Newsday declared: "For spewing the weekend's best non sequitur, Trash Watch nominates Newt for the Hall of Surly Surrogates."
In a syndicated column, ABC's Jeff Greenfield wrote: "Has a Clinton mole infiltrated the Bush campaign?" due to "assertions and innuendoes that not only border on hysteria, but cross right through passport control?"
Film critics even jumped in when reviewing the clunky anti-conservative satire Bob Roberts. Newsweek's David Ansen wrote: "How can you top the absurdities of our current political carnival, in which Newt Gingrich can say with a straight face that the Democrats are following the Woody Allen platform of family values?"
Time movie critic Richard Corliss added: "All of which leaves little room for professional comedians, let alone filmmakers with a polemical ax to bury in some foolish politician's scalp. How can they parody something that is already the lowest form of public discourse?"
The memories returned when Speaker Gingrich arrived in 1994. David Broder remembered the Woody Allen remarks: "Gingrich was obsessed with the notion, haranguing reporters before the rally. No one - and several Bush aides tried - could disabuse him of the notion that this was a dynamite issue."
In 1995, Ronald Brownstein wrote a Los Angeles Times article headlined "Will Gingrich Learn to Dampen the Fiery Rhetoric Before He Combusts?" When Gingrich said "I don't think I dish it out," Brownstein replied: "That from a man who labeled Woody Allen's affair with Mia Farrow's adopted daughter a 'perfect model of Bill Clinton Democratic values.'" Perhaps Gingrich was wrong: at least Woody Allen married his young conquest. Or call Gingrich Newt-radamus. - Tim Graham