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APRIL 21, 2009 2:01AM

At Fordham, Gingrich compares Limbaugh to Chris Matthews

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At around 2 PM on April 20th former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich “Tweeted” this: “On the way to new yotk to talk tonight at the fordham university bronx campis tonight for a speech on 2 plus 2 equals 4.”


And roughly six and a half hours later Gingrich took the stage at Fordham Preparatory High School, in front of roughly 1,000 people, to cheers, boos (which someone awkwardly drew attention to by apologizing for the booers during the Q&A segment), and many people yelling “Neewwwwt!” Sitting in the 6th row (a row dominated by the College Democrats at Fordham University) I had a great view of the audience, and was pleased to see a slew of Obama and/or Democratic T-shirts and pins.


The presence of Democrats in the audience became even more apparent when Speaker Gingrich would say something “clap-worthy” or when he discussed the foreclosure crisis saying, "If you can't afford to buy a house don't buy one," to which people yelled “don’t let banks lend money.” But with a few exceptions (as the Secretary of the College Democrats at Fordham I would like to say we were not part of any of these exceptions), those who opposed Gingrich were respectful and merely abstained from clapping to show their disagreement.


Gingrich might have gotten off his biggest insult talking about California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is now hated by the right for raising taxes.  He started by talking about how people come to America to live the dream and how Governor Schwarzenegger moved here because body building is not something that takes you places is Austria. “We allow virtually anyone to rise, no matter how weird," he said. "We allow people to dream big. That’s why Obama can be President." Now, I don’t want to assert that Gingrich was implying that Obama is “weird,” but those two statements in such close proximity did allow the mind to make some connections. You be the judge.


He went on to say that the "pursuit of happiness" described in the Declaration of Independence is wrongly used as justification for welfare programs; the Declaration, he said, "doesn't call for redistribution of happiness." I am glad to know Gingrich thinks that happiness equates to wealth. He criticized Obama for being against using coal (actually, Obama is pro-"clean coal," to the chagrin of environmentalists) – and off-shore drilling, and then attacked him for allegedly bowing to the leaders of Saudi Arabia and embracing the leader of Venezuela. But he appeared to forget the name of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, during the speech. And he also seemed to forget all those photos of President Bush kissing and holding hands with the leader of Saudi Arabia.


 When asked if a more hospitable America is safer, he replied yes but quickly added that "you don’t gain respect by letting people walk all over you." The Obama administration, Gingrich said, reminds him of Jimmy Carter's administration (which Republicans would love given that Carter lost to Reagan in 1980). Gingrich, who's been divorced twice but just converted to Catholicism, told us that "to drive God out of public life is fundamentally destructive to America." One of my favorite moments of Gingrich’s speech had to be when he compared Rush Limbaugh to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, after being asked how he felt about conservative media stars such as Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. He proceeded to say that they are not politicians and are not running for office and given this we should not consider them to be representative or leaders of the Republican Party, just as no one considers Chris Matthews to be representative or a leader of the Democratic Party (he also referenced Al Franken here).


One thing about the audience that I have to say struck me as odd was the number of non-Fordham students in attendance. Many of them seemed to be parents. However, I know some were students of other schools and some were referred to simply as “special guests.” There were two notable special guests in attendance. One, a 26 year old “small business man” who was a major part of facilitating the “Tea Party” held in New York to which Gingrich proceeded to say, "wasn't about taxes." He insisted it was about (and I paraphrase here as I don't have his exact quote) being able to make more than $200,000 dollars, and still be considered a good person.  


The other notable guest may only have been notable to me, given that we had a small run in at the end of the Speech. As I was leaving the auditorium with friends, we were discussing the beginning of Gingrich's speech in which he talked about traveling to Poland with his wife. We then proceeded to innocently (and privately) joke about how we should have asked him to clarify which wife he was referring to: the one he divorced while she had cancer, or the one he cheated on with his current wife, or his current wife. As we were joking about this, a man grabbed me by the arm and said “I know what you’re talking about.” Not really knowing where he was going with this and being a little angry that he thought it would be ok for him to grab a 19 year old girl by the arm, I gave him a confused and slightly dirty look. He then proceeded to ask me if I had heard of Monica Lewinsky, and if I would have still voted for Bill Clinton. I politely said yes and walked away.


            Now although I may seem critical of Gingrich, and in most contexts I am, I want to make clear that I am grateful for him coming to Fordham to speak. I welcome ideas that are not necessarily aligned with my own. It's part of becoming an informed individual, which is the goal at any university. Also, it is part of combating political apathy on college campuses, something that both College Democrats and College Republicans are in agreement about. The College Republicans at Fordham University who, sponsored this event, deserve a lot of credit for pulling off such a major event, giving all members of the audience equal opportunity to have their questions heard, and bringing some publicity to our university. 

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Wow, this is fascinating. I want to find the guy who grabbed your arm and have him arrested, but other than that, great night and great report!
Nora -- nice post. Thanks for sharing.
Excellent report indeed, Nora - many thanks for keeping the world posted!
Thank you all....

And Professor Levinson, I look forward to your class next semester!
Looking forward to it too, Nora!
Great reporting, Nora. I probably would have given the guy who grabbed you a little more than a dirty look.
The GOP isn't completely wrong about how important "character" is. For example, just knowing a few important incidents in a person's life often tells you much more than you really want to know about their character.

We then proceeded to innocently (and privately) joke about how we should have asked him to clarify which wife he was referring to: the one he divorced while she had cancer, or the one he cheated on with his current wife, or his current wife. As we were joking about this, a man grabbed me by the arm and said “I know what you’re talking about.” Not really knowing where he was going with this and being a little angry that he thought it would be ok for him to grab a 19 year old girl by the arm, I gave him a confused and slightly dirty look. He then proceeded to ask me if I had heard of Monica Lewinsky, and if I would have still voted for Bill Clinton. I politely said yes and walked away.

The only thing you left out was that he was cheating on one of those wives during that Monica Lewinsky episode... and yet, felt free to condemn Clinton. (I also have not forgotten Gingrich's notion that single mothers should surrender their children to orphanages. Apparently, abandonment is his default mechanism.)

Great report! Thanks.... and I'm not your mother, but I'm pretty irritated, too, about that man grabbing your arm. Definite control issues.
Great report. I would loved to have been at the speech although I highly doubt I could have shown the restraint. Has anyone noticed how invisible Gingrich was for the past 8 years and how he has suddenly reappeared under Obama? I guess he's one of the official talking heads once again and I would assume Ken Starr will be next to come out of oblivion.
(rated) and appreciated
2012 Presidential candidate Newt thinks if he keeps up the extreme rhetoric he can easily slide into the White House. I guess he forgot the lessons of 1996. The good thing is as he goes along he will launch his hatchet job upon his fellow Republicans and destroy the party's chances.
Super job! We need more informed individuals in this world!
Little touch sensitive aren't you guys.?I am not sure a touch on the arm is arrest worthy. Absolute narcissism, here we come!
I enjoyed reading your post. Thank you.
That whole thing with the arm grabbing is just bizarre. It's as if the right wants to strike out with any childish grade school justification for their own misbehaviour that they can.

It's really incredibly childish and should be called out more often.
I would say you did a pretty good job reporting although it was still editorial. Given that...I am please to hear someone that is open to listen. Was there anything you learned or were surprised to hear? I try to hear both sides and keep an open mind which is not always easy. I don't think Newt was calling Obama weird...i think that reference was to Arnald's chosen profession, although that wasn't really the best way to befriend people either. It's a lot harder to take questions off the cuff without saying something you wish you hadn't later than just reading off of a teleprompter a pre written speach. That goes for both Democrats and Republicans. Some are looking to Newt to run for president next election...probably not the best pick at this time.
As someone in attendence, I would have liked to question the whole premise of the speech, 2+2=4. I assume, because it was not clearly articulated, that he was calling for simplicity but it seems as though the economic situation as well as international one, are anything but simple. The idea of simple answers just doesn't seem plausible and I would hope that as someone who aspires to the presidency, he would see that.
He was asked about his presumptive 2012 bid and his answer what that he would survey the landscape in a few years and then the people will decide. Basically, he dodged the question.
That he did, Jayme. I wish we had been sitting closer to one another.
I like your balance, Nora, and I think Fordham will offer you a great look into all sides of various issues. My sons have attended the Jesuit high school in Cleveland, and we are grateful for their emphasis on intellectual development and independence. I appreciate your last paragraph in particular. You sound a bit like Obama!
I don't think that his grabbing a nineteen-year-old girl by the arm is any worse than grabbing a nineteen-year-old boy by the arm, in that context. I agree that it is rude in either case, and fits the legal definition for a form of assault in my jurisdiction, and is a least a form a battery.
Nice reporting and interpretation. The difference between Clinton and Newt was that Clinton was not trying to impeach Newt at the time he was having his affair--so while Clinton can definitely answer to the charge of denial, he was not a malicious hypocrite. I frankly believe one is much more understandable, at least, than the other.

Also, Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism raises an interesting question. I sincerely doubt in this most political of animals it has any relationship to what his "faith" may actually be--but to the political gain involved and what it may signal regarding the coalition put together by James Dobson, now that he is not longer running the fundamentalist movement.

At first, I thought he was easily replaceable, and the coalition would continue, but this isn't Catholicism--and perhaps it is naive to consider that someone can replace Dobson like the Pope--and his policies and power will continue. Gingrich may well sense that, and is making his appeal to the Catholic working class at a time when it will under his belt when he makes the run for the presidency in 2012--if one of his ex-wives don't assassinate him first.
Terrific journalistic balanced approach. Well done.

I agree with Joan though...however...it would have been me getting arrested. For what I would have done to him for grabbing you. I can hold my restraint (otherwise known as disdain) for Gingrich...but a thoughtless assault tends to bring out the "less sedate" side of me.
Great reporting and I'm awfully impressed by your restraint in not hauling off and punching the "toucher" in the face. as for all those "special" guests, I've long noticed that when Republicans speak at college campuses, there are an awful lot of "fillers"

Newt is positioning himself for 2012. Should half of everything Obama is trying to do succeed (and I would at least like that to happen), Dems might find themselves unexpectedly sitting pretty, which would allow us to sit back and watch the elephants vying for attention at the circus. Popcorn, anyone?
I'm with Joan on wanting that guy who grabbed you arrested. (We call guys like him "asshats" here).

A great report, very well balanced and informative. I especially cheer your final paragraph and hope you spread that sentiment of becoming an informed participant at school and in the world. Bravo.
Newt Gingrich was born out-of-wedlock to his 16 year-old mother who raised him by herself for awhile before remarrying. His birth name was Newton Leroy McPherson. Gingrich has a younger half-sister, Candace Gingrich, a gay and lesbian rights activist who was born when Newt was already a young adult. Given these circumstances one might think that he would have some increased sympathy for abortion rights, single parents, and gay/lesbian issues; but, sadly that is not the case.

Gingrich has been married three times. He married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old (she was seven years his senior at 26 years old). They had two daughters and divorced in 1981. She claims he "discussed divorce terms with her while she was recuperating in the hospital from cancer surgery",an action that would later be used against him; in 1992, his Democratic opponent, Tony Center, ran an ad pointing out this fact.
In 1981, six months after his divorce was final, Gingrich wed Marianne Ginther. He remained married to Ginther until 2000, when they divorced. Shortly thereafter, Gingrich married Callista Bisek, with whom he later admitted to having had an affair during his second marriage at approximately the same time that he was leading the Congressional investigation of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.
1983, Gingrich demanded the expulsion of fellow representatives Dan Crane and Gerry Studds for their roles in the Congressional Page sex scandal.
The momentum of the Republican Revolution stalled in late 1995 and early 1996 as a result of a budget fight between Congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton. Gingrich inflicted a blow to his public image by seeming to suggest that the Republican hard-line stance over the budget was in part due to his feeling "snubbed" by the President the day before following his return from Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in Israel. Gingrich was lampooned in the media as a petulant figure with an inflated self-image, and at least one editorial cartoon depicted him as having thrown a temper tantrum. Democratic leaders took the opportunity to attack Gingrich's motives for the budget standoff, and some say the shutdown might have contributed to Clinton's re-election in November 1996.

Tom DeLay recounts the event in his book, No Retreat, No Surrender, that Gingrich "made the mistake of his life" and says the following of Gingrich's mis-step of the shutdown:
"He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One...Newt had been careless to say such a thing, and now the whole moral tone of the shutdown had been lost. What had been a noble battle for fiscal sanity began to look like the tirade of a spoiled child..The revolution, I can tell you, was never the same."

This guy is wacked. Great post! Rated.
Arrest a goofball who touches your arm? Good lord. Youse all have a low threshold for crazy wherever you are from. An old lady sidled up to me grabbed my arm and started prattling on about god-knows-who the other day. Believe me, some of the elderly ladies about these parts are not quite Aunt May. She could have had a syringe, which wouldn't have been surprising. Indeed, she no doubt was suffering some form of self-induced psychosis, if I trust my instincts. Hell, my mother's batty old cake-eater friend did much the same think, albeit under the banner of booze.

Certainly rude, but in most jurisdictions, one has to prove intent to harm, or that there is a reason to believe one would be harmed, which is clearly not the case here.
For the record, my first comment was a little bit of an exaggeration. I hate to blow Nora's cover but in case anyone is confused: She's my daughter. If I'd seen some guy grab her arm, I'd have gotten arrested, because I'd have hit him in the head. But that's me.
Joan - I think that was pretty clear - But some of us clearly can't resist getting dragged off topic into academic matters not relevant to the topic at hand.

Guilty as charged!
As a Californian, it’s so amusing hearing old-righties like Gingrich talk about Schwarzenegger. It was horrifying watching the Terminator take down Gray Davis in a recall election (only the 2nd time in American history that a governor was recalled). Though Davis was anything but a good governor, still – it was surreal. That Mr. Schwarzenegger has become a governor who, even through some serious missteps has provided mainstream Californians sensible, inclusive and forward-thinking governance is yet another surprise.

If the Republican Party turns to the likes of Gingrich, effectively taking steps backward in time, not only will they lose out, but so will the country.
Nora, you impress me as someone wise beyond her years. I think I'm going to give your mother some of the credit! But really, your writing skills are wonderful. They have the ring of a true professional. I appreciated the informative and fair way you talked about Gingrich's talk and I liked your analysis. I also liked how you brought YOU into your post. Balance is difficult to find at any age, but you've managed to pull it off brilliantly. Thank you.
Wonderful piece, Nora. Your maturity and restraint at 19 top mine at 46; I can be a passionate hothead when it comes to politics.

I can see your mother's influence in your writing yet you as an individual come shining through. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

BTW, like Joan, I'd have clocked the arm-grabber, too (Mom of a same-aged daughter here).
re: arm grabbing

pepper spray comes to mind. a carry permit may be taking things a bit too far. some awareness of street fighting (soft against hard and vice-versa), depending on shoes (yours) heel stomp onto soft top of arch is tried and true. good luck.
re: arm grabbing

pepper spray comes to mind. a carry permit may be taking things a bit too far. some awareness of street fighting (soft against hard and vice-versa), depending on shoes (yours) heel stomp onto soft top of arch is tried and true. good luck.