January 22, 1995 in Features

Gingrich’s Mother Hits A National Nerve

Kathleen Parker Orlando Sentinel
 

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Everybody’s bitching about how House Speaker Newt Gingrich told his mother who told Connie Chung who told EVERYBODY that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a “bitch.”

“She’s a bitch,” Mrs. Gingrich whispered conspiratorially to Chung in front of television cameras and microphones.

The nation gasped as pundits debated Chung’s disingenuousness in coaxing the word from Mrs. Gingrich. Chung’s critics say she spent hours cultivating a spirit of false trust and mutuality, thus “tricking” Mrs. Gingrich into saying the B-word.

Baloney.

Reporters trick people into saying something interesting every day; that is, if “tricking” means they’re pleasant to their subjects and try to build rapport before launching into tough questions.

In Mrs. Gingrich’s case, one could argue that even niceness wouldn’t disguise the presence of cameras and microphones, not to mention a celebrity TV anchor.

When the camera’s rolling, hon, you’re on. Every fool knows that.

It’s absurd to suggest that Mrs. Gingrich is such a rube she couldn’t grasp the simple reality that anything she said might be aired.

So Chung’s off the hook as far as I’m concerned. That’s show biz. Besides, Chung never asked Mrs. Gingrich to comment on Mrs. Clinton. The Newt’s mother brought it up when asked what her son thought of the president.

That’s not exactly a trick question. But the answer was surprising.

“I won’t even tell you what he said about Mrs. Clinton,” Mrs. Gingrich said with that familiar no-means-yes look.

What’s Chung supposed to say, “No, don’t tell me!”?

Of course not. The natural response is: “Tell me.”

If Chung scrunches up her nose, smiles transparently and says, “Just between me and you,” so what? There’s nothing sinister about applying cute charm. Sickening isn’t the same as coercive.

So the issue here isn’t whether Chung was manipulative. All journalists are manipulative if they’re any good.

The issue isn’t whether Mrs. Gingrich was tricked. It isn’t even whether Mrs. Clinton’s a bitch.

Of course she is! I am. We all are. Every woman with a checking account is.

No, the issue is our national problem with powerful women. All the hoo-ha in the wake of Chung’s interview simply suggests that Mrs. Gingrich hit a nerve. She called America’s first lady a bitch, and the nation flinched in self-conscious recognition.

Let’s face it. Most men in America, regardless of political affiliation, think Mrs. Clinton is a bitch.

Why? Not because they’ve ever lost an argument with her. Not because they’ve ever even met her.

They think the word fits because she’s smart and powerful, the principle requirements of bitchiness.

The male impulse in the presence of a smart, powerful woman is to conquer her, to tame the shrew. To a man, there’s nothing quite so appealing as the thought of a powerful woman gone limp in the arms of a dominant male power.

No point in protesting. That’s the way it is.

But the story works best if the woman can be neutralized.

How many times have we heard men say that a certain (bitchy) woman just needs a good man - to calm her down in that special way.

Nobody’s saying it doesn’t work. But it’s a fact that a woman whose power is not diluted, or at least matched, by her man is considered a … “pushy broad,” in the vernacular of more polite times.

Mrs. Clinton, by virtue of her intellect and her apparent marital power, has emasculated her husband (our nation’s leader!) and thus our nation. What a bitch!

Newt apparently thinks so. I’ll wager that most honest men in America agree.

So why jump all over Mrs. Gingrich and Chung?

Because Mrs. Gingrich stepped over the line. She not only called the first lady a bad name on national television, she betrayed an unspoken code that men can call women “bitches” with impunity.

Apparently, they can. Even as Gingrich gained new supporters with his remark, Mrs. Clinton was looking for a new, softer look - to seem more likable. The first lady is being tamed after all.

Pardon my Francais, but that’s a bitch.

MEMO: Kathleen Parker welcomes your views and suggestions. Mail: The Orlando Sentinel, MP-6, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, Fla. 32802-2833. E-mail: kparker1 on America Online, or kparker1@aol.com on Internet.

Kathleen Parker welcomes your views and suggestions. Mail: The Orlando Sentinel, MP-6, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, Fla. 32802-2833. E-mail: kparker1 on America Online, or kparker1@aol.com on Internet.


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