RELIGION, POLITICS AND BUSH'S 'GANG OF FOUR'
by Lionel Rolfe
American Reporter Correspondent
LOS ANGELES -- They're the most unappetizing gang of hypocrites and liars ever, these spawn of the "Reagan Revolution." We're talking about Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Jerry Fallwell and Rep. Henry Hyde.
With the coronation of President George Bush in 2001 - despite the fact several hundreds thousand more citizens had voted for his opponent - a new level of meanness has been introduced into America's domestic and international politics. America's claim to being a civilized nation is now very much in question.
President George Bush has shown that America can be a bully, not only to the world but to its own citizens. He talks but doesn't make sense - he says things are patently ridiculous and nonsensical, yet the media hardly ever notices. He's discovered the power of being a bully, because there's nothing else persuasive about him. But he gets away with it because the media is, for whatever reasons, letting him get away with it.
Before Presdent Bush, leaders usually tried to rule by eloquence, by wit, by powerful arguments. But the President wins by bullying and intimidation. And why not? It's a style that has served the four men we will be talking about here well over the years.
It might be argued that he gets away with it because the country has been burdened with the television generation. Ignorance has been enshrined since television took a firm hold of our national consciousness.
The one good thing about the gang of four is that it seems as if they eventually get their comeuppance. Thus the victories that come to bullies like Bush often turn out to be pyrhic victories. But lots of people suffer in the meanwhile - the civilians of Iraq, the financial well-being and civil liberties of Americans. It sometimes seems as if the whole nation, the whole world, is marching back to the Dark Ages at the behest of President Bush and his American Gang of Four.
It provides some comic relief when these people end up looking pitiful or like kooks. But unfortunately they have real political power. Rush Limbaugh, for example, has become a multimillionaire by pushing Right-wing nostrums. He and Newt Gingrich teamed up to push the "Contract for America."
Also involved were Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican from suburban Chicago who has specialized in "family values" by opposing all kinds of abortion, and then there's that famed man of the cloth, Jerry Fallwell, who created the far right fundamentalist religious movement who provide the storm troopers for Bush - but more about these folks a little later.
All these men - these soldiers of the "Reagan Revolution" - have little grace or charm. As bullies, they are big on getting revenge. That is the hallmark of bullies. That was the subject of Alfred Jarry, the French playwright who wrote the play "Ubu Roi." These Ubus, unfortunately, have had a tremendously deleterious effect on the American body politic as well as the American psyche.
As an example, remember what happened when the Republicans decided to go after Senator Tom Daschle, who became Majority Senate leader when Sen. Jeff Jeffords of Vermont defected to the Democrats early in President Bush's term. Plainly, they were motivated by revenge. In part, Jeffords defected because as a moderate Republican, he was being treated as a pariah by the incoming President. Jeffords did not become a Democrat, but instead became an Independent - but the effect was to make Sen. Daschle the majority leader.
So the heat was turned on. The bully mastermind of them all, Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political guru and operative who keeps his offices in the White House, put out orders to get Daschle. Rush Limbaugh was told to take the initial shots. Suddenly Limbaugh started calling Sen. Daschle, a rather inoffensive, mild-mannered liberal, "El Diablo."
The way Al Franken tells the story, Limbaugh was supposed to soften up Daschle's flanks by getting his 10 million or so "dittoheads" (Limbaugh's own word for his loyal followers) to spread the word. Then in the fall of 2002, ads began appearing in Daschle's district comparing "El Diablo" to Osama bin-Laden, Saddam Hussein and the American Taliban John Walker Lindh.
One of these ads even asked the question, "What do Saddam Hussein and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle have in common? Neither man wants America to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" veteran who wrote the book "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot And Other Observations," talked about another telling moment in Mr. Limbaugh's not so glorious career.
Just before the 2002 elections, the man who was the conscience of the Senate, Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, died in an airplane crash. With the Senate so closely divided, it was a terrible loss to the Democrats.
But that was just one reason people were upset. Sen. Wellstone was a rarity among Democrats. He stood up to the Bush juggernaut in no uncertain terms and he refused to be slowed down by the bullying tactics of the Bushies.
When a memorial was held for Sen. Wellstone, it was an intensely emotional and cathartic thing. People were suspicious that maybe what had happened to Wellstone happened just because he did stand up to President Bush. People didn't say so out loud, exactly, but many were thinking that it might have been no accident that brought their senator down. Many thought that Karl Rove and President Bush would stop at nothing to win. They were bullies not just with words, but even worse "dirty tricks."
So the last thing any of them wanted to see at Sen. Wellstone's memorial were Republicans. The senator's admirers wanted the memorial to be a statement of the need to continue his legacy of fighting for social justice. That is obviously what the deceased would have wanted. The presence of piously grieving Republicans coming to say goodbye to Sen. Wellstone at the memorial did not bring out the most polite behavior in these people. Some of the Republicans were booed. They got all upset because they weren't made to feel welcome. Why should they been welcomed?
One of these - not in person, of course - was Rush Limbaugh, who said he felt "disgust" and was "depressed" and "embarrassed" and "near speechless" that some had felt it appropriate to express a political thought at a memorial for Sen. Wellstone. What bull!
The level of chicanery among this American Gang of Four can be measured in a related matter. Two days after Sen. Wellstone's death, former Vice President
Walter Mondale was being urged to replace Wellstone as a candidate. Limbaugh's old pal Newt Gingrich weighed in with some adroit lying - hoping, no doubt, to spread rumors among the grieving Minnesota Democrats.
Gingrich chose that time to say that Mondale had chaired a commission that was for the privatization of Social Security, and also raise the retirement age.
He neglected to mention that the commission report (from The Center for Strategic and International Studies) had a minority report attached to it - written by Mondale. He said he strongly opposed the recommendation because he did not want to privatize social security in any way.
You must understand that Republicans have been trying to destroy Social Security ever since it was created by President Roosevelt during the great Depression years. In those days Republicans simply opposed social security, but as more and more people came to rely on it, Republicans had to take a different tack. They had to talk about privatizing social security, not eliminating it, even if they are the same thing. Putting funds in the pockets of Wall Street is, of course, a guaranteed way to make sure social security does not stay solvent. Wall Street has always been a gambler's game played successfully over the long haul by the big boys - not the little old ladies who depend on social security to stay alive.
We now see President Bush trying to destroy Medicare and Social Security by the technique of "starving the beast." That's far-Right lingo for bankrupting these programs, either by having expensive wars, like the one in Iraq, or Bush's recent prescription drug program which spends billions not on drugs for poor seniors, but on giving money to the pharmaceutical companies.
Of course hypocrisy and just plain old lying has always has been the hallmark of the far Right. The Big Lie of the Nazis was the great pioneering effort in this regard.
You might be excused for thinking there is indeed some justice in this poor old world because in 2004, Limbaugh had to publicly admit he was a drug addict. He was addicted to Oxycontin, sometimes known as "cowboy heroin." Perhaps among his legions of "dittohead" followers, Limbaugh didn't lose any credibility over this. But presumably he won't be able to speak out with quite the same "authority" he once did.
Limbaugh's old pal Newt Gingrich, the one-time leader of the house and father of "the contract on America, became known as an adulterer, and a rather nasty one at that. He served divorce papers on his first wife when she was fighting for her life in a hospital room from uterine cancer.
Might Gingrich have suffered a loss of some his authority over his behavior? After all, he was an ally of the Christian Coalition. He is, supposedly, a Baptist. You have to believe there is some divine retribution yet alive in this world. When a couple of pious hypocrites like Limbaugh and Gingrich get revealed for being a dope addict and an adulterer, you would think they'd shut up, but of course it never works like that.
Limbaugh never was a very appetizing guy. He started out in radio as a "shock jock" - in the tree-heavy small-town environment of California's state capital, Sacramento. That was way back in the '80s. He would trade insults with his listeners - nothing overtly political, in those days. All very hokey and small town. He was a very mean spirited guy - the kind of guy who you'd expect to kick a cripple, and a lot of his political spiel is the equivalent of that. Nonetheless, his blustery style proved a perfect match for his Right-wing politics. So much so that he got rich when his spiel hit national radio in the 1990s. He adopted the politics of greed and mean.
He got off to a good start by calling Amy Carter, daughter of President Jimmy Carter, "the most unattractive presidential daughter" in the history of the country. But that was just a warmup. When Chelsea Clinton came along, he turned into some strange sort of stalker and he really outdid himself. When Chelsea was 16, he did a gag on his television show with the Clinton's White House dog, clearly meant to say what a dog she was. Ha. Ha.
How much Limbaugh's being a dope addict will affect his credibility is hard to say. Right now he appears to be the only slightly diminished king of talk these days.
Maybe he will overcome, though, because he has President Bush in his corner. Said the President, "Rush is a great American. I am confident he can overcome any obstacles he faces right now."
Rush and Gingrich share something in common. They talk a lot about family values. Of course Rush has gone through three wives so far himself. No crime there.
But being a dope addict is considered a crime. Until now, Rush himself considered it a crime.
"There's nothing good about drug use," he once said. "We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying our country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."
But now Rush has been caught. What is clear is that if he were a black or a Latino, he would already be languishing in prison somewhere.
Limbaugh's second wife had to make her junior college dropout husband stop sitting around and eating too much and go out and do something appropriate for the "rugged individualist" he claimed to be. She got him to at least file for unemployment insurance.
You'll not be surprised to learn Limbaugh is a big hawk on the military, but naturally he got out of actually serving his country during Vietnam. Neither did Bush's Cheney or any of the other hawks who pushed for war while serving in high-paying jobs in the Pentagon. Curious.
If you're beginning to suspect that Rush does not always have a high regard for the truth, bingo. His whole spiel is based on a cavalier disregard for the truth. He revels in lying. Truth is just not important to him - it's practically irrelevant to him.
What is key about Limbaugh is who he speaks for. He speaks for the disaffected white guy in a small town who believes he can't get a job because the country's been taken over by Jews, blacks, Asians and Latinos and that makes him angry.
Limbaugh tells Bubba it's the fault of the liberals and minorities. And a lot of Bubbas listen to him - big time.
They're the guys that Howard Dean was talking about when he said that he wanted to talk to the guys who drive pickup trucks with confederate decals and can't get a decent job.
Limbaugh is as vicious as they come. He has never stopped accusing Hiliary Clinton of killing Vincent Foster, for example. You could say he is shameless, but then what else could Limbaugh be but shameless?
His tirades against ecology are breathtaking in their audacity and espousal of ignorance. There is no problem with ozone depletion, he insists. The problem isn't industrial - it's due to volcanoes, he says.
There are too many trees in our forests. Too many spotted owls. "If the owl can't adapt to the superiority of humans, screw it ..." he said.
Limbaugh has been careful to avoid expressing overt anti-Semitism, but he isn't so careful about blacks. He once told a black caller, "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back." Or he opined, "Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?"
He suggested that the NAACP "should get a liquor store and practice robberies." When a caller suggested black people should be heard, his response was "They are 20 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?" Some people, quite correctly, argue that turning the radio waves over to the far right was a total violation of the original "Fairness Doctrine" - it was the law from 1949 until 1987 when Ronald Reagan ended it by starting to deregulate the broadcast media.
Limbaugh called the interest in reinstituting the "fairness doctrine" the "Hush Rush" plan, because he thought the fairness doctrine was aimed at him. In a way, Rush and all the other right-wing radio show hosts do show the need for a fairness doctrine. The problem is that like Father Coughlin in the 1930s, another neo-fascist radio commentator, Limbaugh demonstrated a lot of political power by working hand in glove with Newt Gingrich. Coughlin was proud of his ability to give Roosevelt a lot of trouble.
Limbaugh was a prime mover in organizing opposition to Clinton's early efforts to set up a national health plan, for example. He's regularly invited on major television shows as an "expert" on everything from global warming to feminism." In 1992, the National Review dubbed him the "Leader of the Opposition." In that role, he felt no compunction about declaring tobacco isn't addictive, dioxins are good for you - and in general railing against efforts to clean up dangerous super sites, and liked to proclaim, in myriad ways, that Mexicans are stupid.
Everyone has heard his famous "feminazis" rant. According to him, "Women were doing quite well in this country before feminism came along." This will be interesting news to anyone who knows the history of feminism in America - feminism began as an offshoot of the abolitionist movement before the Civil War, and among other things, women wouldn't be allowed to vote if it weren't for the feminists who won for them that right in the early 20th Century. It's also educational to learn that when Gingrich and cohorts in Congress were spending $40 million of taxpayer dollars to investigate charges against Clinton ranging from murder to corruption, all they could come up with was a blowjob with an intern. The $40 million blowjob!
Clinton must have been the most honest politician ever to come to Washington, if that's all they could dig up on him.
Gingrich was a leader in the lynching by the "Hamas wing of the Republican Party" against Clinton for his supposedly unpresidential indiscretion. Yet at the time he was having his own wild affair with an intern - even as he called those who dared to disagree with him "The enemy of normal Americans."
Some say that the problems began when Gingrich got peeved at Clinton because the president failed to give him a nice seat aboard Air Force One. Worse, Gingrich felt Clinton was patently ignoring Gingrich on that flight.
Gingrich reacted by peevishly closing down the Congress in an attempt to control it, which failed spectacularly at the time - 1998. His "Contract for America" (or "Contract on America," as Demcorats decribed it) was really a contract on Clinton and the Democrats and some would argue, by extension, the nation.
In essence, the Republicans - and in particular, Gingrich - threw a temper tantrum. They tried to close the government down, a move rejected by the majority of voters in the 1998 congressional elections, when Gingrich was dethroned.
Gingrich, of course, was engaged in nothing that Republicans haven't been trying to do ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt - they were trying to close down the social compact implied in the New Deal. As we said, the effort backfired in the 1998 elections - and Gingrich was forced to back down.
Newt was not of the manner born. There was a kind of hard scrabbleness to his childhood.
When she was 16, his mother Kit married a hard-drinking, brawling fellow. She left him when he hit her once too many times.
Next, Newt's mother wed Robert Gingrich, who adopted the boy in 1961.
In the late '60s, Gingrich was smoking dope and married his high school math teacher to get a deferment from Vietnam.
As a young campaigner in the '70s, he had one main drawback, according to Dot Crews, his campaign scheduler at the time. "We would have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her [a young volunteer] on the desk."
Not only did he serve his first wife divorce papers while she was in a hospital bed, he became a deadbeat dad. The local Baptist Church had to take up collections for their children because Newt refused to pay support for them. She had to go to court to get him to keep the lights on. Gingrich was like another fellow Southern Baptist in another important way. He liked oral sex, in part because like his fellow Southern Baptist Bill Clinton he could deny having sex - at least technically. Oral sex meant you could say you never slept with the woman.
He taught at a backwater college in West Georgia where he had an affair with Anne Manning, wife of another professor there.
Manning explained that Gingrich preferred oral sex. "He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her,'" she said. Despite the fact that Gingrich appeared at Christian Coalition events, he also was caught in a car with someone else's wife.
Hence his reelection promise in '978. "When elected, Newt will keep his family together." But alas, it was not to be.
Newt ran for Congress a couple of times in the 1970s. He married his first wife when he was 19. A few years later he got divorced and married Mary Ginther. As he was having an affair with his next wife to be, he demanded a couple of congressmen be expelled for having affairs with the pages. He was elected Speaker of the house in January, 1985.
A decade after that, he was proclaiming to the Conference of Mayors that Victorian England should be lauded as a model, because it reestablished "values, by moral leadership and by being willing to look at people in the face and say, 'You should be ashamed.'"
This is the same man who also explained about his first wife, that she wasn't "young enough or pretty enough to be the President's wife." She in turn said, "I don't want him to be president and I don't think he should be."
He was actually considering a run for the presidency in 1996.
In talking about Clinton's problems with Monica Lewinsky, Gingrich said, "Around the world today, the institution of the presidency has been degraded to the point that it is viewed as the rough equivalent of the Jerry Springer show - a level of disrespect and decadence that should appall every American." He then predicted - on Rush Limbaugh's show - that in July 1998 the Republicans would win as many as five seats in the Senate, 400 in the Congress, three governors and 500 state legislators. He later said the odds were even better than that. And when the numbers went the other way from what he had predicted, he blamed it on the media fascination with Lewinsky. "I mean, I totally underestimated the degree to which people would just get sick of "4-hour-a-day talk television and talk radio and then the degree to which this whole scandal became just sort of disgusting by sheer repetition."
By November of 1998 he announced he was resigning - and then actually did resign in January of 1999. He married yet another wife - Calista Bisek - in August of 2000, a woman described as a "willowy blond Congressional aide 11 years his junior."
All through the Clinton-Lewinsky adultery scandal, Gingrich was busy denouncing Clinton for adultery, and he was dating his third wife to be while he was still married to his his second wife. She sang in the National Shrine Choir. Many a night he would read his Bible while waiting for her at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. They would end up having breakfast together and, hopefully, a nice time inbetween.
Newt left behind Marianne, his wife of 18 years. But perhaps more important was his unerring attraction to money. There was the the $4.5 million book deal he made with Rupert Murdoch (and had to give up), the House banking scandal in which he bounced 11 checks, the secret pay raises, the Lincoln Town Car limousine and chauffeur, and the sliding scale between donations made for his politics and those for his personal comfort.
The famed book deal of 1995 was particularly interesting. Harper Collins was owned by Rupert Murdoch, of Fox News infamy. Murdoch, an Australian, needed American citizenship to control the American media, and a lot of Americans were rather teed off by his "robber baron" image. Making an overly handsome book advance to someone Murdoch was getting help with a regulatory problem from was pretty much a pattern for him, whether it was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Member of Politburo Jeffrey Archer, or chairman Deng Xiao-Ping's daughter.
Gingrich was not terribly forthcoming about the book advance. He finally admitted he had sat with Murdoch on a park bench the week before the deal and just talked - perhaps about the weather, because he insisted the book deal was not discussed.
There were various other little scams - he regularly used third-rate cracker colleges from the South to indoctrinate people in Christian politics, very much in the same way Saudi-financed Moslem schools teach Moslem fundamentalist values. He taught a "college course" in Right wing ideology and rich folks contributed to it. He almost got busted by the proper federal authorities for that one.
Newt was an academic who he taught history at West Georgia College. He ran for Congress three times, starting in 1974, before he was elected in 1978.
What is odd, for a man who was patently so avaricious and allegedly a kind of a sexual predator, was that he delighted in accusing Democrats of the same types of things. He made a career of this, in fact until he was hoisted by his own petard.
He was the evil genius behind the Right-wing conservative sweep that included "The Contract With America."
Democrats quickly renamed it the "Contract on America," because, in fact, that is what it was. Luckily his monumental arrogance and venality ultimately sank him, and his career.
Gingrich was and no doubt still is a real piece of work. And, for that matter, so are the others in the American Gang of Four.
He sometimes said nice things about Clinton, because they were both kind of good ol' boys, with all that implies, but mostly hated him in the worst kind of way.
At one point, for instance, he proclaimed that Clinton wasn't warlike enough, as if that was some sort of character defect. (In fact, Clinton racked up quite a bit of mileage on the old military coin box himself in Haiti, Yugoslavia, Africa, and various other places - including Iraq).
What isn't easy to answer is how much of a committed Right wing demagogue was Gingrich?
A former political adviser who apologized for having unleashed Gingrich on the nation, L. H. Carter, offered this interpretation of him. "The important thing you have to understand about Newt Gingrich is that he is amoral ... There isn't any right or wrong, there isn't any conservative or liberal. There's only what will work best for Newt Gingrich. He's probably one of the most dangerous people for the future of this country that you can possibly imagine. He's Richard Nixon-glib." Then Carter said that it didn't "matter how much good I do the rest of my life," the fact he helped create Gingrich will besmirch him for eternity.
Who is the real ideologue - Gingrich or Limbaugh? The Nazis had plenty of Limbaugh-type characters around, true believers, sort of small-time bullies and thugs who got their chance to be big-time bullies - some of the thugs were physical thugs and others were intellectual bullies. Gingrich probably had a bit of disdain for some of the scruffy types around him - but his motivations were crass enough to overlook them.
But America shouldn't overlook the radical Right, and in particular that unpleasant marriage of Christian fundamentalism combined with Right wing politics - politics that border on the fascist.
The American Taliban isn't that poor fellow from an idyllic Northern California who went off to fight with Osama bin-Laden in Afghanistan. It's President George Bush who is hellbent - excuse the malapropism - on giving us his bizarre brand of fundamentalist Christianity.
The conservatives and Christian fundamentalists have an agenda: to turn this country from pluralism and democracy to having a state religion. They prefer something more "religious."
On the furthest right end of the political spectrum the fanatics are Christian Identity, which is avowedly pro-fascist, and next to these folks, Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell appear positively benign
The most powerful theology to emerge from the fanatics is Christian Identity, which provides the theological doctrines of the KKKs and militias and the like.
So the Southern Baptist Convention isn't quite Christian Identity. But the convention has an agenda - to eliminate the progress that was won by women in the Œ"0s and civil rights in the Œ60s.
The major spokesmen of this theology are Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell.
Robertson is, of course, a media mogul whose Christian Coalition is possibly the most powerful of all. Robertson has already announced that Bush will be "reelected" in "004 because God has so ordained it. Jerry Fallwell is a pal.
It was Fallwell, on Robertson's show, who said that the destruction of the World Trade Center and a portion of the Pentagon was the fault of the homosexuals, pro abortionists and civil rights activists.
These candid-utterances came 48 hours after the attack. They came as Fallwell was guesting on Robertson's 700 Club program.
"Throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools" were part of the reason God was mad and allowed the attack, Fallwell averred. "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad."
He explained that in particular he blamed "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America ... I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen."
"Well, I totally concur," Robertson chimed in.
But it was so embarrassing, even one of the president's flacks had to say, "The president does not share those views."
Fallwell was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1911, and he still heads the Thomas Road Baptist Church there which he founded in 1956. Shortly after founding the church, he began broadcasting the "Old Time Gospel Hour" on radio and television. When he started the church, he had 15 members. Two decades later he had 16,000 members. He founded Lynchburg Baptist College in 1997, which he later renamed Liberty University.
In 1979, he founded The Moral Majority, which waged war on abortion, pornography, feminism or homosexuality. It first flexed its political muscles during the election of Ronald Reagan in '980.
Oddly enough, Fallwell used to criticize black ministers involved in Civil Rights because he said ministers shouldn't be politically active.
But the Moral Majority was an invention of Fallwell and some other far right activists concerned about finding a way for the Republican party to unseat President Jimmy Carter, who was also an evangelical baptist, but of a somewhat more benign sort.
Back in 1965, Fallwell had proclaimed "Preachers are not called to be politicians but soul winners," but when push came to shove, as it did in '979, Fallwell became a politician.
In 1980, Fallwell told a fib, if you want to characterize it generously - he insisted at a breakfast meeting with Carter, he had asked the president why he had homosexuals among his senior advisors. Carter supposedly responded he was the president "of all the American people."
Fallwell had to later admit the exchange had never taken place. He also had to backtrack after he said that "I do not believe that God answers the prayers of any unredeemed Gentile or Jew." He finally decided that maybe God did sometimes hear from others than just evangelical Christians. By '985, he said he would stop talking about the need to "Christianize" America. He would use the term "Judeo-Christian." He still kept talking about "Christianizing" everything despite his vow.
Fallwell says he considers himself a good friend of the Jews, which brings to mind the old saw about with friends like this, who needs enemies?
Toward the beginning of the 1990s, Fallwell developed an obsession about Hillary and Bill Clinton - regularly denouncing them almost as if they were the personal emissaries of Satan on earth. He was one of those who, like Limbaugh, pushed the notion that Clinton killed Vincent Foster.
No wonder Robertson, of the Christian Coalition, still invited Fallwell on his program - Fallwell's Moral Majority had paved the way for the Christian Coalition.
Fallwell's biggest nemesis is public education. Public education, in his mind, teaches secularism, humanism and atheism. He wants to replace public schools with private church schools. Understand this and you will understand President Bush's relentless assault on public education. Fallwell makes no bones about blaming declining morality on public schools.
"If we are going to save America and evangelize the world, we cannot accommodate secular philosophies that are diametrically opposed to Christian truth. We need to pull out all the stops and to recruit and train "5 million to become informed pro-moral activists whose voices can be heard in the halls of Congress," he said. In a 1979 book, America Can Be Saved, Fallwell openly proclaimed, "I hope I live to see the day, when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
Fallwell gets particularly riled up about women's liberation. He thinks feminists are women who live "in disobedience to God's laws and have promoted their godless philosophy throughout our society."
He thinks women "need to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and be under His Lordship. They need a man who knows Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and they need to be a part of a home where their husband is a god leader and where there is a Christian family."
He quotes scriptures to prove that "Because a woman is weaker does not mean that she is less important."
Most likely dubious characters like Gingrich are probably more cynical than true believers like Jerry Fallwell and Rush Limbaugh.
Only a true believer could, with a straight face, utter some of the bizarre things he has uttered. Among his penchant for odd causes - in '999 he issued a "parents alert" that Tinky Winky, a character on the PBS children's show "Teletubies" was gay. An ABC News Web site asked the question "Is Tinky Winky gay, or is Jerry Fallwell crazy?" By 84.7 to '5." percent, people voted for the latter.
But unfortunately, Fallwell is crazy like a fox.
Yet another member of this unholy alliance of four is Rep. Henry J. Hyde, the congressman from the suburbs of western Chicago since '975 who, along with Gingrich, led the charge against Clinton's adultery.
These days, Hyde is listed as "an expert" on terrorism, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, replacing the far more able Rep. Ben Gilman. He's probably best known, however, for leading the impeachment of President Clinton when he headed up the House Judiciary Committee.
An Irish Catholic who grew up a Democrat, by 1995 he had switched parties to back Dwight D. Eisenhower for president.
His wife of 45 years died in 1999, leaving him four children and four grandchildren, but before she died he gave her a lot of trouble by hardly hiding his various affairs. Yet he was a sanctimonious morality leader, a worthy partner of Gingrich and the rest of the howling mob and demagogues bent on tearing Clinton from limb to limb for his "immorality."
That is until a man named Fred Snodgrass, a retiree living in Florida, said he nearly jumped out of his chair when he first saw Hyde on television talking about Clinton. Hyde committee was then deciding whether Clinton's fun and games with a White House intern should be referred to the entire house for impeachment proceedings.
The 76-year-old Snodgrass said as he was listening to "these politicians ... going on about how [Hyde] should have been on the Supreme Court, what a great man he was, how we're lucky to have him in Congress in charge of this impeachment case," Snodgrass couldn't help but think that this was the same hypocrite who broke up his family.
Hyde had carried on a five-year affair with Snodgrass's wife Cherie. Hyde admitted that the affair only ended when his own wife found out about it. Hyde was a rising star in Republican politics and Cherie Snodgrass was a beauty stylist. She was Hyde's trophy mistress, a beautiful, much younger woman that he flaunted for many years - including, in some rather painful moments, in front of Snodgrass.
Rep. Hyde eventually became a pious defender of family values and a strong opponent - along with Fallwell and gang - of abortion.
He also was, not so coincidentally, a strong supporter of Col. Oliver North of Iran-Contra scandal fame, who made a virtue of lying to the Congress to protect an illegal operation by the executive branch. During the impeachment attempt on Clinton, Hyde kept insisting that "lying must have consequences," a statement that would come to haunt him when the evidence of his homewrecking ways were revealed.
Hyde was, like many such scoundrels, also attracted by money. He was on the board of a savings and loan involved in a spectacular failure. The shenanigans there cost the U.S. taxpayers $67 million.
Clyde Federal Savings & Loan specialized in risky financial options, including buying certificates of deposit from a bank in the Cayman Islands which was notorious for money laundering.
But Hyde was also known as the father of the Hyde Amendment, which kept federal funds from being used for abortions for the poor.
Hyde opposes not just partial birth abortions, but abortion in general. He opposes the U.S. supporting family planning in its international aid. He voted to make it a crime to harm a fetus while committing another crime, and voted for special funding to those health providers who don't provide information on abortions. And he wanted federal aid only to go to schools that have voluntary prayer.
Hyde provided the Catholic support of the Protestant fundamentalists. He doesn't much believe in the separation of church and state. Freedom of speech and the press are not high on his list. He talked about how some churches are "real," others are not.
Especially when you combine that with strong support for Col. North and the Nicaraguan Contras and Iran-Contra, it's not an appetizing sight.
Of course Mr. Snodgrass might not have such a benign view of Henry Hyde either. His wife had been the mother of his three children, but Hyde kept her out until the early morning, night clubbing, lavishing her with jewelry and furniture, and eventually her own apartment.
Mrs. Snodgrass later said she realized she hadn't been Hyde's first mistress, nor the last. She said she eventually came to believe "he's bad for the country; he's too powerful, and he's hypocritical."
Hyde responded to the article exposing his shackup job in Salon by saying it didn't deserve the protection of the first amendment. Rather, he said, it constituted "a violation of federal criminal law."
Rep. Tom DeLay, another powerful Republican congressman whose office sports signs about how today might be the first day of the End of Days, described the article as "a direct assault on the United States."
For Hyde's part, he denounced those who greeted the Slate Magazine article about his indiscretion with the statement that "our most formidable opponent has been cynicism, the widespread conviction that all politics and politicians are by definition corrupt and venal."
He was right, in an ironic kind of way, of course.
Lionel Rolfe is the author of "Literary L.A." "Fat Man on the Left" and the forthcoming "The Uncommon Friendship of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather."