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Advisor in Chief

Re: Shawn Macomber’s There’s Only One Newt:

Newt’s the smartest man in the room, period. He’s savvy enough to realize he doesn’t have all the answers, but knows how to analyze history to garner clues as to what to do. Compared to anyone else possibly running for President, to me Newt’s a slam dunk.
John P.
Elmhurst, Illinois

Electing Newt to POTUS would be a disservice to both Newt and the country, in my opinion. It would be the ultimate example of the Peter Principle at work.

Newt is undoubtedly one of the smartest and foremost thinkers and strategists that the Republicans have seen in many decades. If there were a position of thinker in chief or chief strategy devisor, Newt would be the best man for the job, hands down. He is also a truly gifted speaker and above average motivator. Unfortunately he motivates the Democrats against him as well as the Republican for him.

It is also true that, in a couple of areas of public policy, Newt is as liberal as Hillary.

As much as I agree with Newt in his analysis of problems in our policy choices and, indeed, the body politic in general, I am not at all convinced that he would or could carry out the necessary measures to fix the problems identified. I am sure that the entire federal bureaucracy would unify and rise to stymie whatever he tried to do. I am not sure that Newt could overcome that unified resistance. An example would be the State Department or the Education Dept. bureaucracy and their bosses at the NEA. Newt has made wonderful statements regarding what needs to be done, but actually getting it done is another thing entirely.

In my humble opinion, we need to elect a good conservative (is another Reagan out there?) instead of the typical RINO and then make Newt the officially designated advisor-in-chief on all issues both foreign and domestic except environmental issues and issues to do with zoos, both areas where Newt tends too far to the liberal side of the political spectrum for my tastes.
Ken Shreve

Whoa Nellie! Or more apt, whoa Newt! Forget Newt’s alpha male tendencies. Newt is more suited to being the underdog than the leader of the pack. Compare his record of minority whip, when he drafted the Contract With America as opposed to his time as Speaker of the House. I bet more Americans remember the time he blew off steam in front of the salivating press after Clinton ordered him, and others, to exit from the tail of Air Force One than any of the reforms he forced Clinton to sign into law. Being president requires a certain presence that hotheads like Newt and McCain do not have. That said I wouldn’t mind seeing him throwing bombs at Hillary and McCain that hobble their bids as he travels through Iowa’s cornfields and the ice cream socials in New Hampshire.

Newt is brilliant. Perhaps the next best job for him is Karl Rove’s.
Mrs. Jackson

Yes, there is only one Newt. But the last time he had power and we counted on him, he had the same zipper trouble as the man he pursued.

Newt is the smartest guy in the room, but he always has embarrassing woman trouble. How about we just listen to what he has to say, but don’t give him the power to disappoint — again?
Judy Beumler
Louisville, Kentucky

Mr. Macomber’s essay on the return of Newt Gingrich evokes the classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail scene when John Cleese accuses, “She turned me into a newt!….Well, I’ve gotten better.” Perhaps Mr. Macomber should utter the follow-up, “Well, maybe I haven’t gotten better after all.”

I was a true disciple of The Newt from the beginning of the 1980s. I wanted him to run for president because I was impressed by all his impressive ideas. When he became the leader of the Republican opposition in 1992, I was heartened, only to be betrayed in 1995 when he finally achieved real power. Unfortunately, conservatives have avoided analysis of what happened in the mid-1990s in favor of a bunch of mythology.

First, it was not just the Contract With America, which led to the Republican triumph in the 1994 off-term elections. Probably that was not even mainly responsible. For two years the Republicans, inspired and led by Gingrich, had waged a campaign against the Clinton corruptions. Not just Whitewater. There were the purloined FBI files, domestic spying, misuse of the IRS for political purposes. “Who hired Craig Livingstone?” The subornation of the FBI. The Waco massacre. What really happened to Vince Foster? The high-handed method of trying to introduce Hillary Care, including the highly questionable appointment of Hillary to head the commission. The abuses of the army, attempting to turn it into a White House catering staff at the top and a homosexual haven in the ranks. Disappearance of subpoenaed Whitewater files, and much, much, more. For those who do not remember, they need only go back and review the 1993-1994 archives of TAS. This is just to mention corruption while passing over legal, but bad policy choices and personnel appointments. And of course the continuous deceptive Clintonoid word-weaseling. Newt led a truly heroic battle against all of this, and against corruption by Democratic congressmen as well.

Everyone sensed that the first order of business could, and should be impeachment of Clinton for serious crimes against the Constitution, (not for sexual improprieties and perjury). Newt’s Contract of blessed memory was an afterthought compared to the truly important task of restoring some semblance of honesty and constitutionalism to American government.

And when Newt captured both houses, for the first time in memory, we all expected that finally the villain would be brought to justice. And yes, that the Contract would be implemented. By the way, how many of you remember how many points there were in the contact, and what exactly they were? But as soon as the dust settled and the offices and prestige parking places had been reallocated, the betrayals began.

First of all Newt declared that Clinton no longer mattered, and that we ought to forget about pursuing his crimes and abuses. “We need to pursue a pos-i-tive a-gen-da.” As if restoring a modicum of honesty to government and respect for constitutional rights somehow was not positive. Of course later we would be fed the alibi that the Clintons were untouchable. That there was such a groundswell of love for martyred Saint Willie that any attempt at impeachment would have led to bloody revolution and the lynching of all Republicans.

In fact, as of 1995, the country was almost ready “to Ceausescu” our White House tyrants. It was only later, as a function of his repeated, Road Runner-like escapes that Clinton became a cult figure, beloved by those who were grateful for anyone who could foil a Republican, and grateful for any official who could successfully live out their dissolute fantasies. And it was not only Clinton’s escapes, but also a function of a new cynicism implanted when Newt told us, in effect, that “now we have gained power honesty in government no longer matters.” Imagine if Kenneth Starr had brought his impeachment charges over the fundamental violations of the Constitution listed above, instead of courtroom technicalities relating to a sexual escapade? It is likely that Willie would have been removed in 1996 before Monica’s dress and reputation were stained. In fact, Newt contributed mightily to the cynicism which allowed people to dismiss all accusations arising out of Paula and Monica-gates as nothing more than political attacks. After all that was what Newt tacitly admitted the previous time.

But hey, we got our Positive Agenda, the Blessed Contract, didn’t we? Well, no. As noted earlier, few of us can remember the specific items. I recall that a few, was it two or three, items were ultimately voted into law within the first hundred days as promised. But that most items got stalled. Were brought to the floor of the House, and were either voted down or sent back to die in committee. And when Republican constituents complained about the unseemly haste with which the contract items were abandoned at the first sign of serious resistance, Newt angrily scolded us, that (he) never promised to enact all the items in the Contract, only to bring them to the floor of the House within the first hundred days of the term. Willie must have really enjoyed seeing this peculiarly Clintonian finagle.

Newt spent the rest of the Clinton administration backing away from confrontations with Clinton, while explaining that you just can’t help liking the guy, and you can’t oppose anyone so vastly popular. Hey Newt, as a Ph.D., did you ever hear the term self-fulfilling prophecy?

Amongst the Republicans, Newt repeatedly showed poor judgment, both in his own business and in adjudicating support for other Republicans in trouble. The principle seemed to be “abandon our wounded” and rally round the ones who retreat, a principle the Republicans still have not unlearned. At the time, some of us speculated whether Newt was being intimidated by materials from his own purloined FBI file. We may have been closer than we knew. When Newt’s own troubles came, perhaps people remembered his prior stance of 1995, that principle matters only as a club for beating an opponent. It certainly was poor timing to be caught in a sex scandal at the same time as pursuing the president for something all too similar.

Now Newt wants to come back from the wilderness. And surprise! he begins by announcing a political deal with his old chief enemy, and using her old choice issue. If it comes to it, I would vote for anybody but Lyin’ John Kerry before I’d vote for Newt.
George Mellinger
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Nice try, Newt, but Wal-Mart doesn’t require “the average senior citizen” to make their selections before going into the store and if they make the wrong selection Wal-Mart is happy to make things right. No such luck with the government.

We don’t need a Newt. He cut and ran when things got too hot. Just like DeLay. These guys think they can affect policy better from outside the government than as Speaker of the House. Are you kidding me? Gimme a break. If they can’t affect change from a position of real power how in hell are they going to affect anything from a position of no power? Only a politician could do the math and come up with such an answer.
Cow Creek, Texas

Re: The Prowler’s Corruption Bites Democrats:

My God, could hardly believe it. But then, on quick reflection, sure, that’s exactly what Mike Gravel would do, have the audacity to actually run for president.

And reap some sizable bucks in the process.

As a 20-plus-year Alaskan who’s interviewed that guy several times, I’d say Mike qualifies as the consummate scammer and “quick-buck-artist.”

His IQ probably doesn’t exceed his waist measurement and the only reason he ever got elected was that he was a damned good-looking guy and could turn on the (very plastic) charm. But he sure was an abysmal senator.

No, my first reaction upon reading that column was my jaw dropping six-to-eight inches, then my wife responding to a shriek of laughter, or whatever incredulous response it may have been…

But there’s a lesson to be learned by anyone who’s never watched the proverbial snake oil salesman in action — this guy is in it for an easy financial windfall.

Damn, it’s almost funny. Almost.

Yes, yes, yes… I am all for keeping the Republican Majority in the Senate, but I wish to do it with all NEW Republican senators.

I, for one, am tired of working, contributing and voting only to have the little illegitimates forget who put them there the moment they see their new offices in D.C.!

I have discovered that once ensconced a “wonderful transformation” takes place: They become Statesmen — if only in their own small minds. What a mess. I am so disgusted.
Judy Beumler
Louisville, Kentucky

Only an idiot would back Colin Powell for President. However brave he may have been as a soldier, he is a political chicken. The Republicans already have enough political cowards, including half of their U.S. Senators. They don’t need any more.

The minute the going got tough, Powell would fold like a card table.
Raymundo Aleman
San Antonio, Texas

I wish someone would point out that with the exception of Zinni, the rest are retired light generals. While it may be unfair to characterize them all as pass-overs, that is what they are. While working with a civilian contractor that hired many retired military officers, I was amazed by the lack of initiative of some of the retired officers; some of them were just plain lazy. I worked with only one lieutenant general, and he was embittered by being past over. The worst were the light colonels whose egos self-promoted them to generals. All seem to be cheap shot artists, criticizing their fellow retirees. Most of the officers were in charge of training local non-English speaking recruits. Most had not formalized plans, shunned measurement of training progress. I have been amazed by the fighting ability of our armed forces, considering some of officers I have known. In my observations, thank god for sergeants.
Ken Yamashiro
Alpine, California

Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s A Cautionary Tale:

You were spot on about the press in “A Cautionary Tale.” I just don’t understand how the left and the press in general can be so disinterested in who wins in the WOT. They behave as if they’ve no stakes in the struggle even when their own reporters often have suffered beheadings for merely visiting areas occupied by these reactionary Islamic nut jobs. With this mindset, it’s no wonder so many Democrats and liberals admire the French and Germans who have always been comfortable cozying up to dictators when it suited their comfort. That admiration allows our liberals and Democrats to feel they’re superior, that they can just naturally ignore the tough choices and live in a world where there are no tradeoffs in decision making, and that they can pretend that there are no real threats greater than George Bush. Pretending isn’t responsible behavior for adults. Ignoring reality isn’t either.

But I’m amazed at the left’s incipient lining up to argue that a war with Iran would be worse than an Iran with nuclear weapons. It seems they’ll even betray every progressive policy and pose they purport to believe in just to get at Bush and the good ol’ USA. This is how badly they want power; they’ll even undermine our defense and allow lunatics to have nuclear weapons if it serves their partisan goals. Like today’s celebrities, the Democrats and the MSM press that carries their water have no self-awareness or shame.
Chuck Fowler

Re: Patrick O’Hannigan’s Why I Won’t Stop Going to Church:

Is this the same church that burned perhaps tens of thousands of women as witches? We know that witches don’t exist, don’t we? Is this the same church that wiped out the Cathars in medieval France? Is this the same church that looked suspiciously on even Jews who converted to Catholicism in Avila, Spain! Jesus’ teachings just didn’t survive the fact of there being no second coming.

As for the road taken by Paul, and his conversion, and then traveling evangelism, to paraphrase an eternal skeptic, when Paul saw the head of a heretic he cracked it at once, even though the heretic might be a neighbor!

To think that from a simple philosophy of good will between men, friendliness, and decency we get the wars of popes, the pretensions of bishops, and this vast money grubbing enterprise known as the Catholic Church is laughable and a hoax.
Edward Del Colle

Re: Paul Dorrell’s letter (under “Enlightening the Senses”) in Reader Mail’s Heard Loud and Clear and Ben Stein’s On This Good Friday:

I see Ben has a detractor of sorts. That person is merely repeating the liberal liturgy, however, and has a few points that need correcting.

Point one is the Catholic involvement in politics. While the Catholic Church has been involved in the political process, it hasn’t been to any greater degree than other religion’s involvement and I disagree that Western society has been a fight against the Vatican influence in general. Catholics are anti-abortion. Those who call themselves Catholic and support abortion are heretical in their faith. The Church follows the teaching of Jesus and not the whims of Man.

Secondly, why should we be concerned that our patriotism is scary to other nations? Do we have to beg their indulgence to show our flag here?

His third concern is an assumption rather than a statement of fact when it comes to Zionism and the State of Israel. What current situation is he talking about? Is it the Israel response to suicide bombers? Is he displeased that Israel does not capitulate to terrorism?

As for those retired generals, they are entitled to their opinion like anyone else but there seems to be a political motive behind that and quite frankly, they are not doing our warriors in the war zone any good. They have elevated their personal politics above the good of our fighting men and women. That is disgraceful.

All in all, I will take Ben Stein over this person’s philosophy any day.
Pete Chagnon

Re: Lawrence Henry’s A Good House:

You guys sure opened a can of worms with your story on McMansions vs. older homes. Having grown up in the former, I just HAVE to comment.

The home I grew up in back in Easton, PA was built back in the 19th century. It was old enough to have gas light fixtures. I had a bedroom in the attic area that my parents fixed up (before they separated). There was a pipe that stuck out of the wall about 5 feet up. When I asked my mom once about it, she said there were pipes all over the house when they bought it, but they never removed that one. I felt better because I otherwise would have to assume some idiot plumber put a faucet up that high. That worried me for some reason…

This old house was nothing but problems. The plumbing was outdated and constantly leaked. A flushed toilet on a lower floor would guarantee a screaming shower on the upper floor. The fun part was you could raise and lower the volume of the screamer by turning on the hot water tape, of course “claiming” it was the toilet. On, off, on, off. But watch out for the pay back…

The heating system was a nightmare: steam heat fired by a central boiler that ran on coal. The boiler was a behemoth from some Stephen King book. I swear it was out to get me. Steam hammers going through the pipes that would raise the dead. Uneven heating to the point where for the first floor to be comfortable, the third floor had to cook. And we won’t even go into the joys of filling/stoking the furnace, and inevitable removal of the ash and clinkers.

Electricity? We’re talking open, ceramic connectors on the ceiling in the basement. Damn wires would come loose over time and hang down; you had to be careful walking the basement.

And while we’re down there, some idiot contractor made the decision to build the basement out of some bizarre mix of clay and concrete. To say the basement leaked would be too kind.

The framing was completely non-standard. It all predated the modern “2 by” something. In other words, forget about using standard 2 x 4 without cutting off almost an inch from the side. Insulation? What was that?

The house did have incredible hardwood floors that were indeed beautiful. Of course, that beauty only came out AFTER we busted our butts sanding and finishing them. You should see a 10 year old trying to control a floor sander as big as he is. It could have been something out of Funniest Home Videos. (I swear I have no IDEA how the cat’s tail got skinned like that.) It had a lot of other incredible woodwork as well, but like the floors, it took a LOT of work to make it incredible looking.

Sure, the home had character. LOTS of character. But it seems we were ALWAYS working on that character, nurturing it, understanding it, trying to improve its feelings and self-worth by repairing and fixing it to the point where it would “last” until the next thing went wrong. There was always that unspoken promise that “someday” it would all be “done” and we could relax. It never happened. I moved out when I was 18. Eighteen years later when my mom died, she was STILL at it. However, by then, I think it was almost a game with her. A few years before she died, I offered to help her buy a new, smaller house that she could handle but she refused; you could tell the ongoing endeavor had become part of her life.

As an adult, I only buy new homes. My wife sometimes points out older homes in the area for sale, remarks on their “character,” and comments on how much fun it would be to own one and fix it up. Having lived that “character” nightmare for 18 years, I never play along.

I don’t care for the McMansions. I don’t understand what anyone can even DO with10,000 sq. ft. Hell, my wife and I can barely clean the 2500 sq. ft. we have. I can’t even imagine owning a home with rooms I might never ever enter!
Karl Auerbach
Eden, Utah

Re: Charles Pfeiffer’s letter (“Drone Religion”) in Reader Mail’s That’s the Spirit and Mark Gauvreau Judge’s Catechism’s Comeback:

Charles Pfeiffer wrote, “Mark Gauvreau Judge’s assessment of the Second Vatican Council is rather dreary. He complains that one’s catechetical instruction should be “living, conscious, and active.”

Mr. Judge is absolutely correct about catechesis, but in general wrong about the Second Vatican Council, mainly because of his understanding of catechesis. He seems to think of it mainly as the absorption of abstract propositions regarding the Christian faith, and therefore something that is essentially pedagogic in nature. That seems to be the broad understanding of catechesis in the Latin Church, but the Eastern Churches have a different definition. Catechesis proper is “initiation into the Divine Mysteries” — which is to say, the sacramental life of the Church. This is accomplished mainly through the liturgy of the Church — through the Divine Praises (the Liturgy of the Hours), the Mysteries (Sacraments) themselves, and above all through the Divine Liturgy (Mass) and its Mystery of Mysteries, the Eucharist. Catechesis is thus an active, living, conscious participation in the faith, a continual growing in the faith through which we “put on Christ” and become sharers in the divine nature (Theosis).

Liturgically centered catechesis is thus the primary duty of the ordained ministers of the Church through their leadership in the liturgy and ministry over the sacraments. Eastern Christians would contrast catechesis with “religious education” (padaeia), which is what most Western Christians would understand as “catechesis.” But if catechesis proper is a matter of sacramental initiation, religious education is “faith in search of understanding” — an attempt to put an intellectual and conceptual framework around the mysteries which must remain ineffable. Put another way, catechesis is an exercise in theology (theologia as the Greeks would have it) or theologia prima: experiential contemplation upon the nature of the divine; religious education, on the other hand, is more theoria (theologia secunda): exposition and elaboration of the implications of the mysteries revealed through the theologia prima.

With these distinctions blurred or eliminated in the Western Church, liturgy has become alienated from its catechetical purpose, for which is substituted the dry, didactic prose of the CCC. A contrast between the CCC and the Byzantine Catholic catechism (Light for Life) is instructive — while the CCC runs many hundreds of pages and is generously larded with citations from various Papal decrees and encyclicals, conciliar acts and constitutions, myriad theological treatises and even canon law, Light for Life consists of three slim (100 pages) volumes divided according to different aspects of Christian life — belief, worship and living one’s faith in the world. Footnotes are rather scarce, and most references are either to Scripture or to the liturgy, for the purpose of the volumes is to illuminate what the Church does at prayer, since that is the true rule of faith (lex orandi lex credendi), the source and touchstone of all theology.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia

Re: Ben Stein’s Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

Thank you, Mr. Stein.

I would love to see you pen something as eloquent in support of our wives, husbands and children.
LCDR Jeff Morgan
U.S. Coast Guard

Thank you for your words. They mean a lot to all of us. I’m not serving on the front line but I feel the same way you do about all my Brothers and Sisters in uniform. Thank you for spending the time to write down such wonderful words of gratitude. Sometimes I wonder what our society coming to, and then something said, written or demonstrated is done to help reinforce the fact that not everyone in the world has lost sight of the most important things in life, things like God, Family and a deep sincere love of country. Once again, thank you so much for the words of thanks.
Michael Parshall, SSgt
USAF Recruiting Service

Thank you for saying so well what all of us need to say. My daughter has two brothers-in-law who are presently serving in Iraq. I am emailing this to them.
Charla Gilleland
Redstone Farm
Rush Springs, Oklahoma

Referring to the article by Ben Stein “Greeting From Rancho Mirage.” Spectacular article. I am glad to know that someone out there in this country feels this way and I do believe there are many more. I would hope the same is thought of the families and spouses sitting home deployment after deployment with little time in between. They are, along with my wife, are heroes to me. I am going on a second tour to Baghdad way to soon. In-fact this article was forwarded to me by an NCO who is on his second tour, his first was with me. He headed back with less than a six-month break. Consider that, 24 months in Iraq with only six months between tours to say hello and get to know your spouse and kids again. Just thought you should know that particular case with many more just like his.
SSG John Dolan

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