It's hard to muffle the audience at the annual and generally raucous Buckhead Coalition luncheon, a close encounter of the Atlanta kind that smushes together corporate heavy hitters and media paparazzi in a West Paces Ferry eatery a size too small for the crowd.
But the newly minted chairman of the Fulton County Commission, John Eaves, managed to drop jaws and provoke palpitations at the Jan. 31 shindig. He had a little help from a slippery critter called a Newt, which is generally a small amphibian but at the lunch was clearly a forked-tongue reptile.
Eaves, as you likely recall, made minor headlines in November when he won the commish race -- but he conjured up a frothing news tempest with a radio campaign commercial featuring U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Mayor Shirley Franklin and ex-mayor Andy Young. Lewis, in the radio spot, decries "right-wing Republicans [taking] control of the Fulton County Commission." Franklin frets that the "efforts of Martin and Coretta King ... will be lost." And an alarmist Young warns that "your very life may depend" on rejecting Eaves' Republican opponent, Lee Morris, who is a moderate by any standard and who has never been convicted of killing anyone.
So Eaves, in a warm-up speech to the well-heeled Buckhead crowd, proclaimed that he interned for Gingrich and the deadly Republican Party. The clatter of dishes halted for a second, intakes of breath were the only sound in the room and the simultaneous thought of a hundred or so people was evident on their faces: But we thought Eaves told us the Republicans planned genocide.
Apparently Eaves had survived his gig with the deadlier-than-mamba-snakes Republicans. His hypocrisy was ever-so-politely chided by the affable chairman of the Buckhead Coalition, ex-mayor and diehard Democrat Sam Massell, who shook his head and told the bewildered audience, "John didn't tell me about his Republican involvement." The Buckheadians tittered.
But Eaves' remarks -- flavored with his unwitting admission of political venality and opportunism -- were a more than fitting opening act for Newt.
After all, with Newt we have the seed of corruption, dishonesty, destructive partisanship and moral decay that grew into the sick, thorny vine of the Bush administration and the poisonous flowers of the Republican-dominated Congress, recently uprooted by patriotic American voters.
Newt, AKA the Green Grinch (often shortened to Gingrich), has been doing a coy dance as an unannounced candidate for president. The essential moves in this ballet are relying on the media and public to forget just how awful and unethical he was as speaker of the House, and utilizing gullible assemblages such as the Buckhead Coalition to give respectability to his current crop of deceptions.
To wit: This guy who honed unprincipled attack advertising into the GOP's main mantra, told the Buckhead crowd that "we need to break out of attack ads," and then mused that you can't give an "answer to Iraq in 30 seconds." But, of course, Newt does what he denounces. Two weeks ago, on Fox News, he told Chris Wallace that the Democrats "will have to explain the cost of defeat," which the Newt defined as the "Iranians [deciding] they can use nuclear weapons." If the Democrats want to explain their position, Newt has a solution: He has recently called for eviscerating the First Amendment's free speech guarantees as too cumbersome.
Newt's main message was on education, and I'm sure he'll have at least one supporter for his plan: my son Adam. Gingrich proposed paying kids to go to school (I am not making this up), as long as they get A's and B's. Adam has long contended he should be paid, and considering Newt's general lack of morality, he probably stole that idea from my kid.
Just as Newt's 1994 "Contract on," er, I mean "for America" was a Trojan horse to allow corporate depredations on the environment and the middle class, his current programs are baby wooden ponies concealing corrosive intents. He glides easily from subject to subject, offering amazing statistics, many of which are false (e.g., claiming a majority of Americans don't support withdrawal from Iraq). He told the crowd he has an "entrepreneurial" scheme for saving the environment, and that he wants an "American solution on a bipartisan basis" for the economy.
Down at the Gold Dome, the legislators are true Newt believers. They're pushing the "Segregation Academy and Religious Nutcase Relief Act of 2007," otherwise known as Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson's scheme to undermine public education via vouchers. Johnson is Newt-class craven in using disabled children as his Trojan horse. The truth is that there will be a stampede of wealthy, white parents who discover little Timmy has "special needs." The vouchers will allow Timmy to attend a private school that likely won't have any facilities for disabled kids -- but it won't have any poor people or minorities, either. And it will teach creationism and other superstitions as "science."
Newt's most publicized foray in recent weeks has been in health insurance. Keep in mind that in the last five years, corporate profits and the prices for housing and other essentials have soared, while middle-class incomes have been stagnant. For Newt and his GOP acolytes in the Georgia Assembly, that just isn't enough. The true goal of their health "reform" measures is to free companies from providing medical insurance, and dump the cost on the already economically devastated employees. Put another way, Newt's vision of medical care is as a privilege enjoyed by the wealthy and an increasingly unaffordable luxury for everyone else. The rich live, the poor die.
Well, maybe I've proved myself wrong. I razzed Eaves over his Republicans-are-deadly commercial. Maybe what Andy Young said in Eaves' radio spot is correct: Our lives are endangered by at least some Newtian members of the GOP.
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