The biggest hand Secretary Rumsfeld received when he visited the troops in Iraq was when he said he doesn't read the newspapers. He said he preferred to read the biography of Ulysses S. Grant instead.

It was a body blow (what isn't a body blow these days?) to those of us in the newspaper business.

No newspaper can afford to lose even one reader.

If you come back to us, dear Rummy, we will give you a 30 percent discount on a subscription for the first three months. We will also provide home delivery and you will have a chance to win the newspaper sweepstakes. The first prize is two tickets to the World Series.

Now, before you say no, Mr. Secretary, there are many advantages to reading a newspaper that you won't find anywhere else.

In case you are forced to resign from the Pentagon, our help-wanted ads will help you find another job.

No American can be well read if he doesn't turn to the sports pages to find out how Tiger Woods is doing and whether Smarty Jones will win the Belmont.

Our business section is must reading for a secretary of defense. Here he can learn about Halliburton's contracts, the trials of allegedly crooked CEOs and what to buy on the stock market.

You won't find that in Grant's biography.

A paper is proud of its letters-to-the-editor pages. If you don't like what a newspaper writes about Iraq, you can send a letter and I'm sure they'll print it.

The crossword puzzle is one of our most popular features, and if you're wondering what the future holds for you in the Middle East, the horoscope column will tell you what to expect.

Every paper has an advice-to-the-lovelorn feature. Many readers turn to it first to find out who has more troubles than they do.

If you are a bridge addict, a newspaper will show you new tricks. And if you are a gardener, we'll tell you when to plant your tulips. Newspapers take gardening very seriously, particularly because so many of their readers stop to smell the flowers.

I could go on about why you should read a newspaper -- so I will.

You want gossip? (And what person doesn't?) We'll give you the inside story on Martha Stewart, Ben Affleck, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Kobe Bryant and senators who shall remain nameless but do fool around. It's easy to figure out who they are.

Don, not all the op-ed columnists are against you. Bill Safire thinks you are doing a heckuva job, Bob Novak is in your corner, and Charlie Krauthammer says you are the greatest defense secretary the country has ever had.

Don, baby, you can't get good feedback if you don't read the papers. Everyone in Washington leaks to the press, and if you don't read the paper you can't guess who's leaking.

A newspaper tells you how to connect the dots.

Mr. Rumsfeld, I believe if you subscribe you will find a plan to get out of Iraq.

I have made my case. I don't blame the troops because they gave you a standing ovation for saying you don't read the papers.

What I don't understand is why they cheered so loudly when you said you were reading the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. After all, a lot of our troops were on Robert E. Lee's side.

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services