The '90s are finally taking shape -- and in the most peculiar and unexpected ways.
It's the decade when sex is out and John Travolta is back in. You explain it.
What's more confusing, though, is that in these days of the information superhighway and CD-ROMs and cappuccino makers, it's that old reliable, nearly obsolete instrument -- the radio -- that has emerged pre-eminent.
It's radio, of course, that gives us talk radio. And talk radio is now the most powerful political force in the country. Ask Rush "The Torch Has Been Passed To Me" Limbaugh, who believes he is to America what Plato was to Greece, except Plato didn't sell as many books.
And the darling of talk radio is -- cue the music -- Newt "I Hate Everything" Gingrich. He's the talk-radio candidate. He doesn't have his own show, if you don't include C-Span, but his world view is talk-radio's world view.
Spin the dial. You'll hear something like this: Things are bad, really bad, unbelievably bad, catastrophically bad. Couldn't be worse if Jane Fonda or even George Stephanopolous moved next door.
Now, maybe the world is not all that bad for you personally. You might actually have a good job and health care (you earned it; you got it) and maybe even a juicy 401(k) retirement plan.
But look around. Look at our so-called leaders and what they've done to us.
Kennedy is, well, too fat.
Cuomo is too smart.
Clinton, gosh, I don't know where to begin. He's too fat and too smart.
And their solution for everything is more taxes, more welfare and more midnight basketball leagues.
It's time for a change, isn't it?
Well, there's a big election coming up. Some are calling it a watershed, in which the Republicans may win back the country taken over by that usurper Clinton. If the Republicans control the House, which they haven't won for 40 years, Gingrich will be your next speaker.
Think about that. Now, let it roll around on your tongue. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
That either energizes you or scares the hell out of you. If it doesn't scare you, the Democrats are dead.
You can't be neutral on Newt. He doesn't allow neutrality. For example, he once called Tip O'Neill a thug. That sort of eliminates fence-sitting.
Like many people who listen to talk radio, Newt is mad. Real mad. If you're mad, he's your guy. Because, unlike you, he can do something about being mad.
For example, he promises to subpoena Clinton into submission. Newt told one group that, if he's Speaker of the House, he could have as many as 20 panels going investigating the Clintonistas.
What's so wrong with Clinton?
I want to quote Newt here: Clinton Democrats are, he told one group, "the enemy of normal Americans." Meaning, apparently, Republicans.
You want confrontation? You want anger? You want some real, venomous, face-clenched-like-a-fist spleen-venting? Newt makes Bob Dole look like a puppy dog. Alan Simpson sits back in admiration.
The question is: What makes Newt so angry?
I think I understand. As he tours America on behalf of Republican candidates everywhere, Newt always tells people Clinton represents the "counterculture." What counterculture? "Easy Rider" is over, pal.
Besides, this is the Bill Clinton who didn't inhale, whose hero was John Kennedy. Clinton was about as counterculture as the Carpenters.
But here's Newt on "Forrest Gump," his new favorite movie, replacing "Patton."
"In every scene of the movies in which the counterculture occurs, they're either dirty, nasty, abusive, vindictive, beating a woman or doing something else grotesque," Newt told a group of Republican women recently. "It is important to remember that in that period, Bill Clinton was on the side of the counterculture. That gives us an understanding of what's happening in this country."
What must have happened is that the '60s weren't kind to Newt. When there was an actual counterculture, he was the geek in the Young Americans for Freedom who couldn't get a date. And he's been mad ever since.
Maybe that's not it. Maybe Newt was just born mad. Genes, I've been hearing recently, are destiny.
Meaning it was Newt's good fortune to be so miserable.