The Unknown: The Red Line.

Newt Gingrich had also heard us on Ollie North’s radio show and called the hotel (how had he known which hotel? I guess the Speaker of the House probably has ways of knowing) to invite us out for Long Island Iced Tea and shrimp scampi. He knew a very “exclusive” (what did this mean? No Blacks? No Jews? No Democrats?) seafood place.

All our preconceptions were wrong, friends, because the Right it is a-changin’. We had expected to meet any of several small, slender, often brightly-colored salamanders of the genus Triturus and related genera, living chiefly on land but becoming aquatic during the breeding season, whose “Contract for America” had seemed like a war on America’s poor (the 90 percent of the population who owned 10 percent of the wealth loved our anthology, while the richest 10 percent loved our hypertext). Instead we arrived at a Cajun club with very loud jazz and a mostly African-American clientele. Newt’s congressional limo had been very conspicuous parked outside on a street of abandoned warehouses and broken glass. We found him dancing right below the stage. He was wearing a lei, loud Bermuda shorts, and heart-shaped rose-colored sunglasses.

We got about fifty shrimp dipped in coconut batter and served with a Thai peanut sauce. Newt wouldn’t let us eat anything else, it was out of the question, this was his favorite dish. And we were going to drink pitchers of strawberry margaritas, made with fresh strawberries, Cuervo Gold, and Grand Marnier. With extra lime. A drink he was nuts about. And he couldn’t stop talking about the hypertext.

We were ribbing him about Clinton and the whole health care thing, and El Shifa, the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory Clinton had bombed, and the Lewinski thing (which, even a year later, you couldn’t stop hearing about, as if the whole thing were just an elaborate plot—a staged scandal—wrought by covert black operatives to get all the people of America to get fed up and stop reading or watching or listening to the news altogether, so a secret government could subvert the Y2K election and plant an operative in power [which theory, Newt, basically, admitted was true]). We made him laugh so hard that margarita came out his nose.

Even though the restaurant didn’t seem like his kind of place, it was obvious he was appreciated there. He tipped big. He seemed to have lots of African-American friends. He was getting paid top dollar as a lobbyist and he was happy in his retirement.

We had been so wrong about him.

Sure his “Contract for America” was a war on the poor, but he was a lot more charismatic than we had expected. Plus, he picked up the tab. “On Uncle,” he said.


Audio Button
Dinner with Newt
Read 10/23/98
at The University of Cincinnati
342K RealAudio Clip

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