The Insider

The Eternal Freshman
Anyone looking for more evidence of the alienation of mainstream Republicans from Newt Gingrich and 9th District Congressman Steve Stockman would have found it in abundance during the House speaker's appearance at a May 18 rally and fundraiser for Stockman at the Galleria-area Marriott. The affair had a deliciously fringe overtone, from the booth selling Cabbage Patch-style "angel dolls for Stockman" (only $15 each) to the "Impeach Clinton" bumper stickers (a mere $1) and the "Don't blame me, I didn't vote for the womanizing, draft dodging, tax-raising, pot-smoking, anti-gun, failed governor of a small state" T-Shirts retailing for $10.

The cast of characters parading to the podium began on the far right and fell over the edge, starting with prayer leader Terry Lowry, publisher of the far-right LinkLetter and radio host on "Christian family" station KTEK. "Oh God, do not remove your hand from America," intoned the Linkster. "May we repent and turn from our wicked ways." Even anti-porn crusader Geneva Kirk Brooks added her imprint, leafleting the crowd of 400 or so with broadsides blasting "Kinsey's Depraved Sex Reports in Schools." That's an enthusiasm Brooks shares with Stockman, who's sponsoring legislation calling for congressional investigations into the 50-year-old Kinsey sex study. Brooks even cornered Gingrich during a brief news conference and urged him to investigate alleged government funding of sex education programs supposedly based on the Kinsey research. Gingrich tiptoed around Brooks' question without committing himself, then stole away.

The crowd was distinctly downscale, and even the VIP tables at the front were filled with what might be charitably described as the great Republican unwashed. The condiments of the event fell considerably below traditional GOP standards: when was the last Republican event you attended where popcorn was the main course?

One of the few elected officials from the middle ground to show up at the noontime affair was at-large City Councilman Joe Roach. Asked whether he was at the rally to support Stockman, the southeast Houston Republican carefully replied, "I'm here to present Newt with an animal on behalf of the Houston Zoo." Queried on the nature of the creature -- alive or dead, mammal or reptile -- Roach smiled and pulled a stuffed elephant out of his bag. After the councilman made the presentation to Gingrich, an announcer declared that the elephant would be auctioned off to raise money for the Stockman campaign. Gingrich diplomatically stepped in to take Roach off the spot by telling the audience that the money would go not for Stockman but for the Zoo -- an institution one wag suggested could provide Steve with low-budget housing after the November election.

The other auction items included two American League baseballs, one signed by Governor George Bush and the other by Gingrich. "Afterward, you can throw these at the demonstrators outside," added the announcer helpfully. The 30 or so anti-Newt picketers in front of the building repeatedly drew comments from the speakers inside, who seemed delighted with the attention. Also on the auction block: an autographed copy of state GOP Chairman Tom Pauken's tome The 30 Years War, in which he reveals the true story of the sixties and the countercultural left and how "all those people who supported the Vietcong gravitated to Clinton." Unaccountably, there is no chapter on Steve Stockman's pre-congressional days as a devotee of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Meanwhile, new Harris County Republican Chairman Gary Polland quickly established that the days of moderation under predecessor Betsy Lake are long gone. Polland described a mother's murder of her year-old child and explained to the crowd that President Clinton and the Democrats could be held responsible, since infanticide is the logical result of their support of legalized abortion. Then he snickered about the Clinton cabinet "filled with ethnic and gender quotas. They're still there, except the ones that have been indicted."

Polland crowed on about a recent radio talk show he hosted and cracked, "I guess Terry Lowry is going to let me do his show next." Since Polland is Jewish, perhaps this will be a litmus test to see just how ecumenical Christian radio really is.

Stockman himself, looking dapper in new wire-rimmed glasses and a suit, finally came bounding on-stage amid disco rock fanfare, pumping an arm a la Arsenio Hall summoning the Dog Pound. "I'm here; I'm in your face!" shouted Stockman, bouncing up and down. "I'm a Republican, get used to it; I'm a freshman!" he continued. Mercifully, the schedule-squeezed Newt walked on-stage at that moment, shutting down Stockman before he really got started. It would be Stockman's last extended exposure to the audience, since he accompanied Newt to an off-stage press conference after the speaker's speech. By the time they finished, the crowd had mostly filed out onto the street.

The most appropriate T-shirt at the event belonged to a chubby female admirer of Newt. The front of the black pullover read "America Held Hostage," while the back asked, "When will the nightmare end?" In answer to that query, the Stockman rally ended at 3:30 p.m.

Law Firm Nip and Tuck
Lawyer Marian S. Rosen laid off three lawyers, a bit less than half her firm, last week, giving those who believe one of America's chief problems is too many lawyers something to cheer about. For attorneys unfamiliar with the unemployment line, it might be a harbinger of things to come.

Rosen cites personal problems involving the health of family members for her decision to downsize the operations of Rosen and Newey. The laid-off lawyers are Lynne Renfro, Alice O'Neill and former Post criminal courts reporter Mary Flood. Two of the three were deeply involved in representing plaintiffs in breast implant cases, a specialty area currently undergoing a reduction of sorts as juries become more skeptical of such claims. Rosen's firm lost a major implant case against 3M in February. The bankruptcy of Dow Corning has delayed a number of the firm's cases, Rosen says, though she declines to blame the delay for the layoffs of the particular attorneys.

"Your reading audience isn't going to feel particularly sorry for lawyers out of work any more than they would feel sorry for them at the bottom of the ocean," chuckles Flood, who has kept her sense of humor if not her job. The three lawyers visited a Texas Employment Commission office Monday morning to file for benefits, and learned anew how the other half lives. "Now I know how all my friends at the Post felt," says Flood, who left the newspaper a few years before it sank to go to Harvard law school. "I never really knew where the TEC was until now."

Tearful Meeting
A source in Bob Lanier's inner circle reports that shortly after Port Commissioner Betti Maldonado decided to cease cooperation with the FBI agents who were asking her to bribe councilmembers, she met with the mayor in his office and tearfully explained her role in the sting. Maldonado may have won the mayor's sympathy, but our source says plenty of Lanier's staff are furious with Maldonado, considering her guilty of rank treason for agreeing to pass cash contributions to pro-Lanier councilmembers on behalf of the federal agents posing as investors. Asked to confirm the meeting, mayoral spokesman Sarah Turner said Lanier would not comment because of the continuing FBI investigation. Maldonado could not be reached.

Meet The Insider for coffee at the Hyatt Regency, or call 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax).


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