Gingrey, who is giving up his congressional seat to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss, made national headlines late last week after a comment he reportedly made at a closed-door meeting with his fellow GOP congressmen and his staffers about congressional salaries was leaked.
Gingrey’s underlying argument was a good one: that Congress should not carve an exception out of Obamacare for members and staffers. Congressmen should feel the impact of the new health care law just like other Americans, not enjoy an exemption allowing them and their staffers to buy insurance at subsidized rates, he has said.
But he veered into “foot in mouth” territory during the closed-door session with his choice of words about how Capitol Hill staffers can afford to pay higher insurance premiums now because they later can make much larger salaries as special-interest lobbyists, while congressmen have no expectation of such a big payday.
According to a blogger at The National Review, Gingrey said that staffers “may be 33 years old now and not making a lot of money. But in a few years they can just go to K Street … and make $500,000 a year. Meanwhile I’m stuck here making $172,000 a year.”
Gingrey’s comments went over like a lead balloon with many of those in the room — hence the leak, clearly meant to embarrass him. Media critics were quick to point out that Gingrey (a retired OB/GYN) has a personal net worth of at least $3 million, easily spinning his comments to make it sound like he was whining about the size of his congressional salary.
And the episode marked the second time Gingrey’s mouth and mind have simultaneously malfunctioned and attracted the notice of the national media this year. The first time came back in January when he made comments at a Smyrna Area Council of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce that seemed to sympathize, at least in part, with the highly toxic remarks by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin about “legitimate rape” that helped cost the Republicans control of the Senate in last fall’s elections.
Said Gingrey, speaking off the cuff in answer to an audience question, “(Akin) said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that. … I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true.”
Gingrey said the next day that he disavowed Akin’s remarks and that his own comments had been misconstrued.
But his latest comments are apt to be seen by his Republican critics as the latest evidence that he might be a liability against mainstream a Democratic opponent if he were to capture his party’s Senate nomination.
THIS & THAT: Seven of the 17 known surviving members of the 88-strong Marietta High School Class of 1938 gathered for their 75th Class Reunion Saturday at the Marietta Country Club and are pictured at right. Local class members who were unable to attend include James Cox, Lois Dunn, Betty Gober, Ross Reeves and Clarence Rohner.
LAISSEZ LES BON VOTES ROULEZ? Congressional candidate Barry Loudermilk has picked up the endorsement of Cajun chef Henry Chandler of Henry’s Louisiana Grill in Acworth. Henry’s hosted a fundraiser for Loudermilk Monday evening. ... Tickets are still available to “Strandelicious,” the Oct. 3 fundraiser for The Strand Theatre on the Square. The event showcases downtown restaurants. Tickets ($75 each) are available from the Strand box office.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: “We’re out of Africa and glad to be back,” said Lockheed management retiree Darrell Fullick of west Cobb, who, with his wife, Rita, spent two weeks on a photo safari in Kenya and arrived back in Atlanta on the 17th, just three days before an attack by Islamic terrorists on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi left scores of civilians dead.
“It was a wonderful trip,” Fullick told Around Town. “We never felt any fear or trepidation. The Kenyan people are wonderful, very helpful. And Nairobi is an incredibly bustling place, although once you get away from downtown the squalor is just staggering.”
They passed through Nairobi three times in the course of their trip but never visited the mall in question.
Fullick did note that security at the airport there was “lackadaisical at best.”
THE NEW movie for the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Visitor Center debuted to a sold-out house at the Strand on Sunday evening. Though some might question why the National Park Service would spend $485,000 to produce a movie when the federal government is going broke, especially when the movie it replaces at the Visitors’ Center is only 20 years old, there’s no question that the resulting film (“Kennesaw: One Last Mountain”) is much superior to the old one.
“I have been working at the park for 39 years,” park historian (and retired South Cobb High School history professor) Willie Ray “Swampy” Johnson told the crowd before the curtain went up. “And (the new movie) is the most understandable retelling of the story (of the battle) we’ve ever had during that time.”
One of the film’s major goals was to tell the story of the Civil War to those who previously did not feel a connection to it, according to Deputy Regional NPS Director Sherri Fields.
“The sesquicentennial is educating Americans as to the importance of this war,” she told the crowd. “We wanted to tell the whole story for everybody, not just one story for a few. We wanted to reach a diverse audience that previously didn’t see themselves as part of the story.”
Hence, the film notes the war’s impact on the civilians caught in its path, on the slaves who were hired out to dig entrenchments for the Confederates and on the freed slaves who served Sherman’s army in various capacities.
AMONG those in the crowd was Mayor Steve Tumlin, who proudly sported a “Pickett’s Charge” tie — enlivened by numerous Confederate Battle Flags.
Filmgoers were regaled ahead of time by a concert of Civil War tunes played by Strand organist Ron Carter, who then provided accompaniment as former Kennesaw Civil War/train museum mainstay Harper Harris performed a selection of other period tunes on harmonica. But his inclusion of a later tune, “Georgia,” prompted one movie-goer to quip to Around Town that, “I didn’t know (tunesmith) Hoagy Carmichael was from the Civil War era!”
Harris and Carter also performed a stirring rendition of “Dixie.”
Told Tumlin to Around Town as the evening drew to a close, “(“Dixie”) was the best part of the whole night. I had a hard time not standing up when they played that.”
TUMLIN noted that as a boy he loved listening to famed organist Graham Jackson play his composition titled “The Battle of Atlanta” at the old Johnny Reb’s Dixeland Restaurant on Cobb Parkway just south of Akers Mill Road in the pre-Cumberland Mall era. He added that Harris’ version of “Dixie” was comparable.
The mayor also recalled with a smile that the menu at Johnny Reb’s requested that those who wanted well-done steaks should order them a special way: “Shermanized.”