Newt Gingrich in a skirt? Help!

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The Independent Online
AS IF the bogus love of Ireland and infantile bonhomie that Americans parade on St Patrick's Day were not tiresome enough, Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, has introduced a congressional resolution designating 6 April "National Tartan Day". Gorge-rising images loom, of Newt Gingrich in a skirt, Bill Clinton blowing bagpipes, Jesse Jackson reciting Robert Burns. The date, the Republican Lott explains, should have significance for all Americans, the Declaration of Arbroath having been signed on 6 April 1320. The Arbroath parchment, he says, was the inspiration for America's very own Declaration of Independence.

TALKING of Newt Gingrich, the welfare-slashing Speaker of the House of Representatives has been practising what he preaches.Having abandoned the beer-and-chocolate diet he once favoured, he has lost 30 pounds by sticking to a strict low-fat, low-sodium diet and exercising daily. The real secret of his success, he says, is a bread-maker purchased by his wife, Marianne. "It's the highest quality-of-life enhancement we have. She has a low-sodium bread recipe that is perfect. With an egg substitute, you can make a diet French toast with diet syrup. It's a sign that the 21st century is going to be great."

MAN, however, does not live by bread alone, as Cardinal John O'Connor, the Archbishop of New York, would no doubt be the first to remind us. The cardinal has no problem, as far as we know, with Mr Gingrich eating low-sodium bread, but he did object to President Clinton, a Methodist, having the presumption to take Holy Communion at a Catholic church in South Africa. In his homily last Sunday he said: "Since this is a person who is not Catholic, he cannot be admitted to Eucharistic Communion." The White House begged to differ, responding that African Catholics were very relaxed about these matters. Whereupon the cardinal's office asked who the President thought he was to be lecturing church elders on Catholic theology. As the holy war rages, the press have tagged this latest Clinton controversy "Wafergate".

MURMURS of scandal to come, meanwhile, at the legendary Watergate, Washington's titanic riverside apartment complex. Placido Domingo, the Washington Opera's artistic director, has moved in. He will be neighbours with Monica Lewinsky and her mother, Marcia Lewis, who owns a flatthere. Two years ago Ms Lewis wrote a book called The Private Lives of the Three Tenors: Behind the Scenes with Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras. In a publicity flyer, she hinted she had had an affair with Domingo. He denied it. But tempted daily by the charms of the formidable duet, the California Carmens, will the chivalrous Don be able to resist?

AT A gathering of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (Glad), the not-so-chivalrous Commander in Chief received a poke in the eye. The National Organisation for Women (Now), seduced in the past by Bill Clinton's sexually correct siren songs, is beginning to wonder whether perhaps actions speak louder than words. Patricia Ireland, the Now president, chided Mr Clinton for having allowed Republicans to bulldoze his last surgeon general, Jocelyn Elders, out of office. Ms Ireland reminded her audience that the reason the Republicans kicked Dr Elders out was that she advocated masturbation instruction at school. "Don't you wish," Ms Ireland asked, addressing herself rhetorically to Mr Clinton, "that you had listened to her?"

WE MAY yet be spared National Tartan Day if wiser heads in Congress prevail, but it's too late to do anything about National Poetry Month, April having been designated as such by the Academy of American Poets. At a gala event to be immortalised in a commemorative video on 22 April, Mr and Mrs Clinton have promised to read their favourite poems. They have not said which these will be but there can surely be no doubt about Hillary's choice. "Stand by Your Man" by Tammy Wynette, the lyrics of which urge the cheated wife to "forgive him ... and tell the world you love him". Bill's options are more wide-ranging. Rochester's "Ageing Debauchee", perhaps? Maybe the Shakespearean passage where King Lear rages, "Let copulation thrive!" Best of all for the Commander-in-Chief who loves his country but loves women more might be these lines from Donne's "Elegie XIX, Going to Bed": "Licence my roaving hands, and let them go,/ Before, behind, between, above, below./ O my America! my new-found-land."