If Callista Becomes First Lady, What Will You Tell Your Kids?


During the impeachment-driven midterm elections in 1998, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich commissioned a series of ads designed to try to reverse growing public support for his nemesis, Pres. Bill Clinton, whom Gingrich and congressional Republicans were trying to hound out of office because he had been caught lying during a lawsuit deposition about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

One of the ads, titled “What Did you Tell Your Kids,” specifically targeted suburban women who might be wavering in their support for the GOP by referencing the ickier parts of the scandal — the “not sex” sex, stained blue dress, etc. — without mentioning them outright. The ads don’t appear to be available online today — 1998 was well before the YouTube era — but writing for Slate.com in October 1998, William Saletan, supplied this review:

It features one young suburban mother talking to another. “What did you tell your kids?” asks the first woman. “I didn’t know what to say,” answers the second. The first woman replies: “It’s wrong. For seven months he lied to us.” Like the finger-wagging scene in One Person, this ad reminds viewers not of what Clinton did to [Paula] Jones or [Ken] Starr but of what he did to us. It doesn’t say his lies were criminal; it merely says they were wrong. This isn’t an abstract matter of law, the ad suggests. It’s about your kids.

This ad, and the theme of explaining a politician’s sexual misdeeds to children, has renewed salience now, in light of Gingrich’s surprise victory in the South Carolina primary over the weekend. As a caller into C-SPAN’s phone-in show, “Washington Journal”, put it in a rhetorical question to women Republican voters last week: Have you considered the fact that if you elect Newt Gingrich president, his first lady will be this homewrecker who broke up his marriage?

What will you tell your kids, indeed.