Professor Gingrich on the Nation's 'Annihilating Capabilities'

By Al Kamen
Monday, March 26, 2007

Ne wt Gingrich may not have had time to page through the 10-volume works of Abraham Lincoln while he was designing the "Contract With America" or running the House of Representatives. But now that he's just looking for solutions to all the nation's problems while mulling running for president, he's got plenty of time on his hands.

So here is Professor Gingrich's reading list, all titles the former speaker tossed out in a conversation last week with a group of Washington Post reporters and editors:

"Team of Rivals," by Doris Kearns Goodwin

"Revolutionary Wealth," by Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler

"Leadership," by Rudy Giuliani

"The Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic," by William Bratton and Peter Knobler

"Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game," by Michael Lewis

"The Life of Andrew Jackson," by Robert V. Remini

"The Changing American Voter," by Norman H. Nie

"Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln," edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay

"Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President," by Harold Holzer

And, of course: "Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation's History and Future," by Newt Gingrich

After you read all those, you may finally be prepared to opine thusly: "Any time you are fighting a conditional war rather than total war, the enemy always has the ability to adapt and become more complicated."

Eyebrows raised on that one, our colleague Michael Shear reports, but Gingrich explained: "I'm not advocating total war. I'm just saying, as a theoretical matter, the most powerful nation in the world, if it's prepared to engage in total war, will win, because it has annihilating capabilities. If you're not prepared to do that, then your opponents always have time and space to respond."

When in Doubt, Take a Limo

Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small's "Dom Perignon" lifestyle, as one senator put it, complete with $2 million in housing and office expenses over the past six years, may have seemed a bit much to some folks on the Hill.

But the Smithsonian Board of Regents deemed them, and apparently the $915,000 he will take home this year, to be authorized and "reasonable" under the terms of his employment agreement.

And the fact is, Small went to great lengths to justify and explain each and every one of those supposedly lavish expenses. The explanations are compelling, and provide tips you can use if you're on government travel and need to figure out how to justify using a limo service rather than taking cabs or -- heaven forbid -- driving yourself around in a rental car.

On one trip to the San Francisco area a few years back, Small had to take a limo, an aide's memo explained, because "the meetings were scheduled immediately upon arrival at the airport and back-to-back. There was no time to spend renting a car or risk getting lost en route" to various sites.

Even more important, "he had luggage that he could not store anywhere so it was most convenient for the same car to hold his luggage until his meetings ended." Also, there was a "dinner meeting" and it was "impossible to guarantee that a taxi would drive him from Palo Alto . . . to San Jose . . . so late in the evening." (Word is they have dinner real late out there but taxi drivers go to sleep early.)

The best justification is that "there would have also been a safety risk for him to have to carry as much cash as would have been needed to pay a taxi to drive him from city to city."

Regulations require him to carry a sign: "Caution: This Man Carries Thousands in Small Bills."

Attention, Friends of Scooter

Time for fans and friends of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to step up and make sure District Judge Reggie B. Walton doesn't hammer him at sentencing on June 5 for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame investigation.

"When a person is about to be sentenced in federal court," Libby's lawyer, William Jeffress, writes in a memo to anyone interested, "it is proper and very common for the judge to receive letters from friends of the accused attesting to his character, integrity, and service to his country, community and family."

"Many friends and admirers of Scooter Libby have asked how they may submit letters of this kind" prior to sentencing, Jeffress relates. Libby, under federal guidelines, might get 18 months to three years in prison, but Walton could alter that considerably.

"So address but do not send your letter" to Walton, the lawyer emphasizes, underlining "do not send." Mail it instead to Jeffress so it can be packaged for delivery with all the others.

"Identify yourself in the . . . opening paragraph," Jeffress advises, and give "your personal background." For example, "president," "vice president" and so on. "This is essential if the judge is to give your observations the weight they deserve." So add "former governor of Texas," "Decider," "Uniter," "former secretary of defense" and so on.

"Describe how long, and in what context, you have known Scooter," Jeffress counsels, and talk of things "that relate to his public and private service and his qualities as a person, such as personal and professional integrity, helpfulness, generosity, commitment to his family . . . good deeds, dedication to our country or the welfare of others."

But remember, the qualities of good writing count: "Specific detailed examples of your experiences with Scooter are the most important aspect of any letter," Jeffress writes.

"It is acceptable . . . to express a view that Scooter's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice is inconsistent with your knowledge of his character and integrity," Jeffress writes. Hitting the "underline" key again, he continues: "It is not acceptable, however, to criticize the jury, the prosecutors, or the court, or to denigrate any person involved in the process including the witnesses."

So no cheap shots at Tim Russert, Judy Miller or the white knight, Patrick Fitzgerald. Jeffress says "do not worry about length, so long as your letter is specific." We respectfully demur. Always worry about length. We'd guess Walton would prefer you write it tight, write it active, cut adverbs, no droning on and on. Deadline's May 1.

Are You an American? Are You for America?

March 17 was a sad day. On that Saturday, the most generically named federal political action committee shuttered its doors. That's right, Americans for America filed its last report with the Federal Election Commission. Hey, but on the upside, the name's available!

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