Wrapping Up Old Business: Genarlow and Gingrich

Matt Towery

11/1/2007 12:01:00 AM - Matt Towery

For months, even years, I have written about the plight of Genarlow Wilson, the young Georgia man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with another teen. He was sentenced under a legislative bill I authored that was severely altered during its passage and misinterpreted by prosecutors.

For my loyal readers who literally by the thousands wrote or commented in support of our efforts to free Wilson, I will not bore you with long details. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with you and with those of us who argued that the sentence was insanely out of whack, or to put it more correctly, "cruel and unusual" punishment. Genarlow is a free man.

Several days ago I spoke with Genarlow. He was as gracious and kind as I expected. Contrary to those who might have thought otherwise, he did not blame his prosecutor or "the system." He acknowledged that he made a mistake -- but one that no one in their right mind would believe worthy of such punishment.

The best part about the end of this story is the very adult manner in which this young man reacted to the winning of his freedom. He has vowed to be a model for other young people, and to make them think about the consequences that can come from actions.

I also want to point out that Wilson's attorney, a tenacious woman named B.J. Bernstein, deserves great credit for having fought this legal battle with skills, in my judgment, equal to or beyond many other alleged "great attorneys," such as Gloria Allred -- and without the crass self-promotion. Wilson has been interviewed by all of the major TV networks, but Bernstein has refrained from taking the Allred-like position next to her client.

So this column is really about freedom and future. Which leads me to the other "G" in the headline, Newt Gingrich.

I recognize that for years I predicted Newt Gingrich would run for president in 2008. And I know that my tough words over the manner in which he exited the field this go-round either pleased or irked readers.

As I've often said, I'm the friend Gingrich often doesn't like because I write the truth. I thought the hazy mixing of his American Solutions effort with a hyped "imminent" announcement of a presidential candidacy that was then killed off in a matter of days did not make sense.

After looking into this more deeply, I have deeper reflections.

First, as to his top attorney and adviser, let me say that I resolutely believe he and his staff had done their "due diligence," and I suspect the last-minute decision not to run was not as much the result of negligence as it was a hurried set of circumstances. In other words, while we always like to attack the lawyers, it is not warranted in this situation. Trust me, as one who has represented Newt in the past, I have a better view of this than others.

And as for Newt Gingrich, what is his future? Well, I'll put it this way: I have always said that Newt had nine political lives. I think he used No. 8 up with his recent, temporary misstep.

But to those who actually hear him speak, he remains the idea man of the Republican Party. I can now say what I would never have said had he run because it would have been biased: The other candidates running in this race for the GOP presidential nomination can't hold a candle to Newt Gingrich in either knowledge or experience. He would have shredded them to pieces in a debate.

Now, I don't need any more letters about Gingrich's so-called "baggage." The man isn't running, and by the time this race is over, you will see more dirty laundry than you can stomach from all around. Newt will look like Mr. Clean by comparison.

For the moment, however, Gingrich the candidate is nothing more than a thought that did not develop. And at present it remains my firm belief that we are likely to see Hillary Clinton as our next president. The internal polling to date is that conclusive. (Of course, anything can happen in a year.)

Which leaves just this one thought -- 2012. For having not run in 2008, Gingrich may seem even wiser by the time of the following presidential election. I think he knew that all along. After all, he has nine lives.