Ms. Collins, in “Eye of the Newt,” says thanks to Newt Gingrich, we have learned of the link between patriotism and adultery. Mr. Blow, in “The Biggest Losers,” says reducing childhood obesity should be an all-hands-on-deck issue, including the hands of the government. Mr. Herbert, in “The Master Key,” says a national infrastructure bank, proposed by Senator John Kerry, could bypass the current austerity tide. Here’s Ms. Collins:
The presidential race is barely under way, but already we have had our first Big Thought. I am speaking, of course, of Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that he was driven into serial adultery by hard work and patriotism.
“There’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” he told an interviewer on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
You can imagine how much discussion this sparked. “Will ‘feeling passionate about this country’ become the new ‘hiking the Appalachian Trail’? ” asked Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair.
Really, the concept explains quite a bit. New York’s former governor, Eliot Spitzer, worked a lot. And right now New York City is reeling over the indictment of a powerful state senator, who turns out to have had a secret life in a waterside mansion that he shared with two male gynecologists and their mother. We are still sorting out the details, but I can tell you that this guy used to be the chairman of the Finance Committee. You can only sit through so many hearings on tax policy before the call of the wild starts ringing in your ears.
Also, whenever I hear “former Mayor Rudy Giuliani” I think of patriotism and round-the-clock dedication to the job. Also, about the time he called a press conference to announce that he and his wife were separating and the wife, who hadn’t heard, started telling reporters about an affair she believed Rudy had had with a female staffer.
Gingrich is asked about his personal life more often than most politicians. If you’re on your third wife, cheated perpetually on the first two, and are running for the Republican presidential nomination as a social conservative, these things come up.
The most famous story about Gingrich’s failed marriages is about his first wife, Jackie, who had been Newt’s high school math teacher before he appeared at her door and suggested a new equation. Jackie was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer when her husband walked in and started talking about the terms of a divorce.
She is not to be confused with the second wife, Marianne, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was visiting her mother when her husband called to tell her there was another woman.
Anyway, you can see how the topic of Gingrich’s home life would come up. Generally, he doesn’t seem all that thrilled by the invitation to explain himself. But he was very chatty on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Perhaps this was because of the way the interviewer, David Brody, phrased his question.
“Talk about a forgiving God?” he asked.
Newt was quite forthcoming about both God’s readiness to forgive him and the much, much better lifestyle he has embraced now that he’s found true love with Wife No. 3, converted to Catholicism and “learned an immense amount.”
People, can we all agree now that men who spend their early and middle ages betraying women right and left are not allowed to get credit for discovering the joys of monogamy at about the same time that they receive their first Social Security check?
Of course, Gingrich is being a better husband this time around. He’s 67! By then, most men have not just finished sowing their wild oats. The oats have been harvested, ground up, reprocessed and turned into soggy cornflakes.
“In general, in men and women, the sexual hormones decrease as you age. It’s a lot of work, dating and managing multiple partners,” says Rose Hartzell, a therapist at the San Diego Sexual Medicine Center.
God forgives you at any age, but voters should only reward reformations that occur before the miscreant receives his first copy of the AARP bulletin.
Gingrich offered up his analysis of the cause of his sexual indiscretions when he appeared with other presidential hopefuls at an event in Iowa sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. This is a group established by the former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, who is recovering from a fall from grace himself. Reed’s involved secretly working with the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to block a ban on Internet gambling. Which I do not believe is the sort of thing you can blame on a heavy schedule and the flag.
In his public life, Gingrich’s rhetoric is less forgiving than apocalyptic. His speech in Iowa was laced with attacks on Democrats (“secular socialists”) and a call for “a political change so deep and so profound that nothing we have seen in our lifetime is comparable.” He has called Barack Obama “authentically dishonest,” and “a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.”
If only Obama had committed adultery instead of health care reform, I’m sure they’d be getting along a lot better.
Newt Gingrich gives little lizards a bad name. He’s a revolting excuse for a human being. Here’s Mr. Blow:
Should the government have a significant role in reducing childhood obesity?
That’s the question the Pew Research Center began asking poll respondents a few weeks ago. Nearly 60 percent said yes. Only about 40 percent said no.
This is a remarkable change in public sentiment from 2005 when the Harvard School of Public Health asked a similar question and got almost the exact opposite result.
So what happened in the intervening years? One major occurrence has been the push by the president and first lady to combat the problem. Their initiatives promote commonsense approaches like increased breast-feeding, better diets and more exercise. Who could argue with that? The right, that’s who.
True to form, anything the Obamas support, no matter how innocuous or admirable, the right reflexively rejects, sometimes in malicious tones. Rush Limbaugh went so far as to comment on the first lady’s own weight as part of his criticism last month. (I have to bite my tongue and bind my fingers to keep from pointing out the obvious hypocrisy.)
So with that as background, one can see why the Pew poll found that only 49 percent of whites, 45 percent of the elderly, 41 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of those who agree with the Tea Party movement also agreed with the majority on this question. “Their Nanny State is trying to control our Kitchens!” (Oh, like how the right’s Daddy State has tried for decades to control our bedrooms? I get it, but I digress.)
The right objects even though, as the accompanying chart illustrates, many of the more conservative states, particularly in the South, are also the ones that struggle the most with obesity.
Now many would rightly argue that the data don’t delineate to what degree conservatives expressly contribute to the problem. And they’d argue that large percentages of minorities — who have higher obesity rates and are more Democratic — in many of those states could skew the numbers.
Fair points, but they don’t erase the anomaly.
Even when you strip away all minorities and only compare obesity rates among whites, the highest rates are still in West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Even so, they’d say, there is no way to know how many of those whites are conservative. Yes, but — since John McCain averaged 71 percent of the white vote in those states in 2008 — it is safe to assume that many are.
Anyway, this really shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This should be an all-hands-on-deck issue, including the hands of the government.
And red states, many of which are now the biggest losers in the fight against childhood obesity, have the most to gain.
Here’s the graph. My state has covered itself in glory… As usual. And now here’s Mr. Herbert:
The United States is not racked with the turmoil that is shaking the Arab world, or the tragic devastation that has hit Japan. We are not in a state of emergency. We’re in a moment when it is possible to look thoughtfully at the American landscape and take rational steps to ensure a better, more sustainable future.
But we’re not doing that. The big news out of Washington this week was Representative Peter King’s Muslim witch hunt. Policy makers at all levels of government are talking austerity — sometimes sensibly, but most often mindlessly. Creative ideas regarding energy, education, jobs and so forth have trouble even getting a hearing.
Now comes Senator John Kerry hoping to buck the frustrating tide with a modest proposal. He mentioned in a speech in January that through most of its history America could build things — not just manufacture goods, but build the infrastructure that is required for a nation to be great: “We built a transcontinental railroad. We built an interstate highway system. We built the rockets that let us explore the farthest edge of the solar system and beyond.”
But that time has passed, and it’s not an overstatement to say that unless we atone for our infrastructure sins the high tide of American greatness will have passed as well. How is it, for example, that we don’t already have in place the infrastructure policies to support the vast potential of the green energy market, projected to surpass $2 trillion by the end of this decade?
It’s an investment opportunity not to be missed. But somehow the United States is missing it. “Two years ago,” said Senator Kerry, “China accounted for just 5 percent of the world’s solar panel production. Now it boasts the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing industry, exporting about 95 percent of its production to other countries, including the United States. We invented the technology, but China is reaping the rewards.”
It would cost the United States a staggering amount to get its overall infrastructure into decent shape — the best recent estimate is $2.2 trillion over the next five years. Without substantial investments, we’re in danger of being overwhelmed by an enormous range of problems, including ever-longer commutes, an inadequate energy grid, difficulties getting commercial products to market, breakdowns in essential communications and the loss of industries, investments and jobs to competitors overseas.
The investments are essential, but where is the money to finance them?
Senator Kerry will introduce legislation next week to create a federal infrastructure bank — officially, the American Infrastructure Financing Authority — to provide loans and loan guarantees to large, essential infrastructure projects. The loans will be seed money used to leverage other sources of funding.
“These are strictly loans — not grants — for commercially viable projects,” the senator said. “The federal government does no more than 50 percent of the loan. We expect that to leverage $600 billion or so in infrastructure investments over time.”
Mr. Kerry said the initial cost to the government would be $10 billion. Other proposals to establish an infrastructure bank have been more ambitious and more expensive. Senator Kerry is anticipating — or, at least, hoping for — bipartisan support and a nod from the Obama administration for this more modest initiative.
We’ve moved so far from that forward-looking, can-do philosophy of prior eras that there is a danger that we really are incapable of preventing the nation’s infrastructure from deteriorating further. We’ve seen how catastrophic that can be. New Orleans was all but lost for want of an adequate system of levees and floodwalls. Thirteen people were killed in the rush-hour collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Natural gas pipelines are blowing up in city after city. And the sorry condition of so many streets and highways contributes, at least in part, to the deaths of thousands of motorists every year.
Creation of an infrastructure bank would be an important indication that leaders in Washington are still capable, despite most of the available evidence, of moving beyond partisan paralysis to engage one of the biggest challenges facing the country. If there is such a thing as a master key to a better American future, investment in the nation’s infrastructure would be it. That is the biggest potential source of jobs. That is how you build the foundation for new and innovative industries.
I sometimes try to imagine New York City without its subways, or the United States without the interstate highway system. Those kinds of projects could not be built today. Try to imagine life in the 21st century without the Internet. Imagine if we had never gone to the moon.
Maybe that’s what’s missing today. The ability to imagine.