An Imaginary Interview

by Sherman Alexie

Newt Gingrich has risen from the dead. Most lefties thought he was gone forever, but for the last few years Newt has been working undercover for conservative think tanks. He's been influencing politics like a white trash version of Henry Kissinger, and apparently helped write the Defense Policy Board manifesto that declared war on Iraq a few years ago.

Two weeks ago, I switched on The O'Reilly Factor to compare and contrast their conservative bullshit with my liberal bullshit, and watched Newt Gingrich speak intelligently about the Iraq war. Newt is a right-wing maniac, but he's a genius right-wing maniac. Last week, I heard Newt pontificating on Sean Hannity's radio show about the traitorous wartime sins of the liberal media. A few days ago, "The Don" Rumsfeld ordered a political contract hit on Colin Powell and sent Newt to do that damp work.

I am sorry to report that O'Reilly and Hannity allowed Gingrich to lecture on political and journalistic morals, and politically slaughter Powell, without questioning the Newtster about his personal morals. If they had, perhaps it would have gone something like this:

"Newt, we all agree that Saddam is an evil tyrant, but let's try to define evil. For instance, do you think lying is evil?"

"Mr. O'Reilly, this might sound like moral relativism, but I think the size of the lie and the size of its evilness are proportional."

"Fair enough. A kid breaks a window and tells his father that his little brother did it. That lie is infinitely smaller and less evil than Saddam's lies about THOSE weapons of mass destruction WE CAN'T SEEM TO FIND. Any sane person would agree with that. But as a high-school student, you carried on a sexual affair with one of your teachers. How does the questionable morality of that relationship affect your judgment now?"

"I married her after I graduated from high school. I think that was the right thing to do."

"Newt, Sean Hannity here, we all know you asked your first wife for a divorce while she was lying in a hospital bed, suffering from cancer, and cheated on her with other women--"

"I never cheated on my first wife. I only had oral sex."

"Clinton also used that 'cunning linguistic' defense--"

"But far less effectively than I did."

"I don't think that's anything to be proud of, Newt. It's rather hypocritical, don't you think? Especially since you led the impeachment charge against Clinton after he lied about his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky."

"I was not in favor of impeachment based solely on President Clinton's sexual lies. We impeached Clinton because he was a serial liar and perjurer, not because he cheated on his wife."

"But didn't you say that only because you were cheating on your second wife at the time? Or was it your third wife?"

"Yes, I was cheating on my second or third wife. But, unlike President Clinton, I was not taking advantage of a callow and inexperienced intern. I was sleeping with a young and highly accomplished white-collar professional working diligently for the Republican National Party."

"Are you suggesting that Clinton's behavior would have been moral if he'd been sleeping with a highly accomplished Democratic woman like Patty Murray or Dee Dee Myers?"

"Clinton never married any of his mistresses. I, on the other hand, have married at least two of mine. I believe in marriage. Or marriages."

"Newt, O'Reilly again, I don't want you to think I'm comparing your behavior with Saddam's. After all, that evil bastard has killed hundreds of thousands of people, and you've just banged strange stuff now and again. Those crimes are not comparable in any sense, but let's talk about something real here. As a man capable of lying to one or more of his wives, how can you question the morality of antiwar politicians, journalists, and private citizens simply because they hold a different political view than you do?"

"I demonize liberals because good and decent people won't vote for demons."

"Okay, that makes sense. But now that the war with Iraq is essentially over, won't it be more difficult to keep fooling the voters?"

"If President Bush's approval ratings continue to drop, we'll just start another war. Ellen Glasgow once said, 'The worst thing about war is that so many people enjoy it.' But she had it backwards. The joyous spoils of war are truly the best thing about war."