That was some eyebrow-raising Christmas present Newt Gingrich got from HarperCollins -- a two-book contract with a guaranteed advance of more than $4 million.
Predictably, Democrats like House Democratic Whip David Bonior and Gingrich critics like the New York Times have expressed outrage at this. The only cause for outrage would lie in any favoritism Speaker Gingrich would show for his benefactor. That happens to be Rupert Murdoch, whose multi-media corporation owns HarperCollins. It also owns the Fox television network, and its right to do so is being challenged, on the grounds that it is a foreign-controlled corporation. Congress may have to resolve the issue.
We assume that Mr. Bonior, and the Washington bureaus of the Times, The Sun and the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and just about every other reporter in Washington will make sure that any such resolution will be subjected to microscopic examination and front-page publicity. There better
not be any Gingrich DNA on such a deal, or he'll be run out of town on a rail, a la Speaker Jim Wright (whose phony book deal Mr. Gingrich exposed).
Much of the banging on the Speaker-to-be over his book deal is just politics as usual.
None of his critics so far as we know complained about Sen. Al Gore's $100,000 book advance, or whatever advances Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan may have received for the half-dozen books he has written since becoming a senator. Of course, there's a lot of difference between a hundred grand and four mill, but nobody thought Pope John Paul II was being compromised by his $7 million book advance.
There is an unrelated free-lance writing problem that this book contract highlights. Members of Congress can write such books for money, but Congress has forbidden other federal employees to do the same. The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the law, and if it doesn't rule it unconstitutional, then Speaker Gingrich -- if he has any sense of fairness and propriety -- should lead Congress to repeal the law.
Meanwhile, we think Democrats who are so upset at the Gingrich contract should ponder the real problem that, for them, it symbolizes: Publishers think, with good reason, a Newt Gingrich book would be "hot." A look at the best-seller lists shows why. Barbara Bush, William Bennett, Charles Murray, P. J. O'Rourke, Tom Clancy and Rush Limbaugh have all been fixtures there for months. What does that tell you?