My Dinner With Newt

Newt and Callista Gingrich on the U.S.S. Yorktown

I just returned from a long weekend of political-tourism in Charleston, South Carolina. It didn’t start out as a Newt-Mitt chocolate kind of trip, it just happened.

My oldest son Ari challenged me to lose 25 pounds. I said, “Okay, if I lose 25 and you drop 15 we’ll go on a trip, just the two of us without wives to a place of mutual interest” (that Southwest flies to). I lost 23 pounds (close enough) and Ari ran the Chicago Marathon and slimmed down in the process, so we decided a few months ago to go to Charleston, South Carolina.

Ari is a foodie, so I challenged him to pick the restaurants. I’m an eater, so I knew we’d be compatible. But the bonus we hadn’t planned for was that the South Carolina Republican Primary was last weekend with the Thursday debate in Charleston. We both love politics almost as much as biscuits, so this was going to be our equivalent of Seinfield’s George Costanza making love, watching TV, and eating a pastrami sandwich simultaneously.

An aside to this: When I was in the ICU after heart surgery Ari came into the room to visit. I had an intubation tube so I couldn’t talk, but we could communicate if I wrote notes with my fat Sharpie. Ari broke the news that John McCain had picked Sarah Palin to be his Vice President. I wrote, “Who is she?” He told me she was the Governor of Alaska that nobody had ever heard of. I wrote, “McCain just blew it.” This was the day after my quadruple bypass plus valve surgery, so you can infer that politics is our “inside baseball.”

We checked into the Market Pavilion Hotel last Thursday and planned our schedule around the debate and our dinner reservations. We went to a classy restaurant named McCrudy’s at 5:30 p.m. so we could be ready for the debate. The food was brilliant, especially my dessert, an intense dark chocolate goo with a thin layer of beets. Sounds ridiculously gourmet, but it was divine.

Newt Gingrich after a Fox News interview in front of the aircraft carrier.

We hoped to watch Newt dunk on Mitt at a bar, but they all had ESPN on, not CNN, so we hustled back to the hotel.

The warm-up shows were all about the ABC interview with Marianne Gingrich (wife #2) nailing her ex about this 1999 mistress (wife #3, Callista) and Newt asking her for an “open marriage.” The excitement built, and John King of CNN, the inquisitor for the debate, did not wait to pop the question of the “open marriage.”

Newt was ready. Wow, was he ready. “I’m SHOCKED” you would ask such a despicable question about my personal life, he glared. And launched into a redmeat diatribe against the ELITES of New York and Washington.

It was right out of the movie Casablanca, when the wonderful Claude Rains (Captain Renault) enters Rick’s establishment and says, “I’m SHOCKED” that there was gambling going on,” just as Peter Lorre comes by and hands him his winnings.

Newt clobbered King, and then Mitt answered the question about whether he would release his tax returns with a “maybe.” Game on. Game lost in minutes. I said to Ari when Romney flinched, “We just saw history.”

The next day we got up early and trekked over to the Mills House Hotel where Morning Joe, the entertaining MSNBC Show with former Republican Congressman from Florida Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski host politicos of all stripes. They were interviewing satirist Steven Colbert, a South Carolina native who was lampooning everybody. Colbert was funny, though not nearly as brilliant as Ari and everybody else seem to think. After the show we took a photo with the show’s hosts Joe and Mika, who were warm and charming, and then looked for our next meal (excellent sweet potato pancakes with a latté at Eli’s).

Next stop was the College of Charleston for a Colbert/Herman Cain rally. Cain was out of the race, but close to 10,000 people showed up on the campus square to be regaled by the Cougarettes (the University’s cheerleaders), a pep band, a marching band, and a gospel choir.

Colbert sang the Star Spangled Banner gospel-style, and Herman Cain strode in elegantly with his stylish black Indiana Jones hat. The crowd was the most all-white group of college kids I’d ever seen. You would have thought you were in a Charleston country club. Maybe we were.

Colbert did his shtick. Cain was friendly but dumb, and one of the gospel singers fainted. But the brass bands were loud and good.

Ari wanted to schlep out to the Romney rally in North Charleston, but I wanted to save my energy for Newt’s rally later at the U.S.S. Yorktown, a retired aircraft carrier, so we walked back to the hotel to prepare for an early dinner at Fig, and later the Gingrich. Dinner was again superb with Ari’s sorghum walnut cake with cinnamon ice cream being the absolute “bomb.”

We then hailed a Jordanian cab driver named “Eddie” who hauled us to the Yorktown, where we had the chance to watch Newt answer softball questions by Sean Hannity of Fox News.

Left to rt.: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of "Morning Joe," with Lloyd Graff, and Ari Graff

Whether it’s Kobe Bryant or Tom Brady or Newt Gingrich, it’s fun to watch somebody who is a real pro get on a roll. And Newt was definitely on a roll that night. He had enough magnetism to reset a compass. The man glowed. He hit all the high notes on Obama, and brought up “Lenin’s disciple,” Saul Alinsky (a community organizer in Chicago in the 1950s whose son, David, I went to high school with). He described Obama as the “food stamp” President and then double backed to those evil New York and Washington ELITES.

Later at the rally on the aircraft carrier, after being anointed by General James Livingston, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Newt pounded the same themes, and the crowd, other than the members of the media elites, loved it. Frankly, I loved it. This was history. This was America. This was an earthquake in American Politics and it was breathtaking, whether Gingrich is a huckabee or Abraham Lincoln incarnate.

Saturday was Primary day. History. But it was also the Hominy Grill for brunch and a chocolate pudding “to die for” (oh, I hope not). We also looked for presents for our wives. Every vacation has its moment of pain, I guess. We finally found the requisite baubles and headed back to the hotel for the results of the election. Ari and I knew Gingrich was going to smite the MITTEN Man. Romney had been pathetic and he had a Cayman problem, too. Rick Santorum seemed tired and Ron Paul was, well, Frank Perdue.

Gingrich won by 12 points. We had a creamy Key Lime pie with grahame cracker crust. Newt’s two daughters stood by their Dad. I believed that the Republicans had their MAN.

Sunday we watched football at the airport and sat next to a Tea Party regular who had come to Charleston from Austin, Texas, to follow the election. Nice man. I think he was ex-CIA. Also sat next to a beautiful young African American woman who did makeup for Fox TV. She had also been working the Primary.

America. Ain’t it wonderful? Another fork for the key lime pie, please.

Question: Would Newt’s record with women stop you from voting for him?

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24 thoughts on “My Dinner With Newt

  1. AvatarJim

    No! Does Clinton’s record with young, youthful women political interns matter with you? Amazing how the power of the question and writing of a story has such whimsical political charm, isn’t it! Shouldn’t we be talking about manufacturing?

  2. AvatarLynn

    Yes, his record with women would stop me from voting for him. His treatment of women, espcially his wives and mistresses…note the plural…..tells me all I need to know about the man. He is a dispicable, lying, cheating, narcissist. And, he doesn’t “get it” about manufacturing either. Please, Florida, please vote for Romney!

  3. AvatarTodd Miller

    No. I wouldn’t vote for him because he proved himself to be a leader who was incapable of managing members of his own party while Speaker of the House, and by extension unworthy of having executive power. Despite his rhetoric, he’s the ultimate Washington insider by virtue of his Congressional service, and the notirious consulting jobs he’s had after leaving office. If elected, it would be business as usual in the Nation’s Capital, or worse, under a professionally unfocused and personally undisciplined CEO of America, Inc.

  4. Avatarjohn Otto

    Definitely yes. Newts daughters still like him, and even though I never went through a divorce, it takes two to Tango judging by his ex’s timing for the interview, she’s no angel.
    If my wife was running for president, I would have the character to keep my pie hole shut instead of trying to destroy her.

    When Obama talks he’s is the least qualified person in the room. When Newt talks he’s the brightest and most qualified. I can think of nothing better than a Newt – Obama debate.

    Ask Newt a question, and you get a real answer – not some Obama telepromted rhetoric i.e. “pass this jobs bill, pass it now”.

    Newt spearheaded The Contract with America and put Bill and Hillary in their respective places when they were trying to pass universal heath care the first time.. I’m actually surprised Hillary hasn’t started WW III yet, personally I think she is one scary bitch.

    As far as the other candidates, Romney is the governor of Taxachusetts and seems to have a bit of a problem with financial disclosure. Santorum is probably too right of center and Paul seems inconsequential at this point, he also seems crazy.

  5. AvatarNoah Graff


    How can you say that Newt gives real answers? He lies and avoids questions like all of them.

    As Lloyd said in the blog, Newt didn’t answer about his wife, he just turned the tables on the Media.

    I also saw clip on the daily show of the debate a month ago when George Stephanopoulos asked the candidates what they would be doing on a typical Saturday night. Newt, blurted out, “I’d be watching the championship basketball game.” Someone corrected him and said, “You mean the football game?” and he said “yeah.”

    Like Newt if you want. But he’s full of BS like all of them.

  6. AvatarWalter Goodman

    The man has the most serious character issues since Richard Nixon. And the talent to become whomever he believes he needs to be to get elected. The ethics censorship was not a mistake. Newt was a big part of the bank deregulation that led to the financial meltdown. He truly believes that if he repeats a lie often enough and passionately enough, it will become the truth. Last time I saw a politician pander to the crowd like Newt, it was part of a movie about Adolf Hitler.

  7. AvatarLucy Glib

    I’m with Larry (and Jim) – I couldn’t see myself voting for Newt, ever, but not because of his alleged history as a cocksman. Someone can be a bad husband and still an arguably great if not at least highly capable leader (::cough:: Clinton-Thomas Jefferson-JFK ::cough::).

    The more important question is … what did you have for your entrees at these magnificent places?

  8. AvatarScott Carpenter Sr

    Forget what he says…which is usually awesome, look at what he has done with Ronald Reagan and during the Clinton years. Say what you want, as he does, the man gets the results we need.

    When Newt, the lightning rod, was in Govt good things happened for this country. There is no disputing that.

    Newt for President

  9. AvatarJim Kaye

    I would vote for Newt, in spite of all his well publicized misgivings. For me, he’s exactly what this country needs right now….

  10. AvatarTibi

    Absolutely! We’ve demonstrated tolerance regarding personal indiscretions (Clinton), so that should not be a deciding factor just because Newt is from the “other” party.

  11. AvatarJames Smith

    I absolutely enjoyed the article like most of what you write. Please keep them coming. I am still undecided on Newt. The womanizer label isn’t a deal breaker with me. I do believe with the power and leadership duties of these men it may be the nature of the beast.

  12. AvatarLarry A

    Newt’s personal life is his own and he can do as he pleases. However, I see that he cannot keep a promise made to the closest person in his life, his wife(s). If he can’t do that, then what’s to make me believe he will keep a promise to those who vote for him?

    Now, if he and his wife did agree to keep an open marriage, then that would demonstrate honesty and integrity with his wife and thus I would be more inclined to believe him when he makes a promise.

    I cannot vote for a man who cannot even keep his promises to those nearest and dearest to him.

  13. AvatarRon

    Yes, we need someone with vision and ideas to return this great country to its roots of freedom and individual responsibility. Newt’s the right man at the right time.

  14. AvatarBruce Renwick

    I do believe Newt has addressed his marital issues in the past. This is not news, this is old news. The media just love another salacious story about an individual running for office (especially a Republican) and thought they should revamp the big dirty story and ask the big question right before the big debate. It seemed to help Newt. We are hurt by this media/Hollywood/true crime culture we have in this country, this is why no good people will run for office or can even get a political appointment. Speaker Gingrich is a horrible husband, however, I agree with some earlier posts that Newt was effective when he was House Speaker. He was able to work with the Dems and get things done. Isn’t that exactly what we need in this country today? Go Newt, and be a great leader, commander and chief.

  15. AvatarJohn Ramsey

    The fact that Newt didn’t answer the question, and effectively turned the tables on the media, speaks to his political savvy in understanding that the electorate has abandoned any pretext at critical thinking. Oops, color me an Eastern elite.

  16. AvatarJeff

    I know I’m likely to be one of the few Democrats responding to the question, but here’s my answer. His record with women isn’t what will keep me from voting for him. It’s his policies and actions. How can he seriously respond in anger at John King’s question when he was a leader in the investigation into Clinton’s sex scandal? John King was doing exactly what Gingrich did then. How can he take money from Fannie May-Freddy Mac and then complain about how horrible they are? I will vote for Obama. I concede that his record has not been great but to elect a president that would likely go back to the failed policies of George W. Bush would be a disaster.

  17. AvatarDaniel Richter

    I would, but my wife says she wouldn’t. I want so badly to like Romney. Former governor, CEO, etc. but a typical NE conservative, which doesn’t always equate to real conservatism (e.g. Scott Brown). Santorum is the only one focused on manufacturing. I’ve never voted for a Republican for President (or a Democrat) as I couldn’t stomach Bush (either), Dole, or McCain. I could actually vote FOR any of the candidates still in and could have voted for any of the ones that dropped out. I think it has actually been a pretty strong field all things considered (i.e. who would want that job?). I think what the pundits have missed is how far right the debate has shifted this cycle due in no small part to Ron Paul and the fact that the electorate has begun to wake from its stupor.

  18. AvatarDaniel Richter

    @ Jeff…I hope you’re not a business owner. This election is about whether we decend further into democratic socialism or embrace capitalism and begin a retreat to a limited constitutional republic as the founders intended. Also, Clinton lied under oath. That’s what he was impeached for. His transgressions showed poor judgement, but that’s between him and Mrs. Clinton.

  19. AvatarJames Thompson

    For the first time in my live I am going to vote democaratic. But I would take Newt over Romney any day. Anyone would beat George W he is the worst president we have ever had and now that I have the vision I see just how bad Reagan was Who I voted for twice It was the economic policies of Reagan that have destroyed the middle class and lined the pockets of the wealthy I will just have to put up with the liberal social policies of the democratic party since we have no other choice


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