Cheerfully adrift

John McCaslin
|
Posted: Feb 07, 2006 4:05 PM

Who would have thought that nearly 20 years after President Reagan bid farewell to a long and dangerous Cold War that the very existence of the United States would be threatened?

"The whole process is broken," former House speaker and possible 2008 presidential contender Newt Gingrich told a small group of conservatives Monday at the Connecticut Avenue offices of Dezenhall Resources.

In particular, he warned of five foreign and internal forces that threaten the nation: terrorism and rogue governments; loss of patriotism among Americans; economic decline owing to poor math and science education; financial burdens from Social Security and Medicare; and the disappearance of God in everyday life.

"I think the challenges we face are very big," Gingrich said, adding that fixing them calls for "very deep and very dramatic change."

Until then, he said, the U.S. government is not capable of an adequate response to numerous real threats, whether it be terrorists striking the United States with a weapon of mass destruction or an outbreak of bird flu.

Should such a nationwide catastrophe unfold, Gingrich said Americans "won't have a clear idea of what the next week will bring."

"I think we are cheerfully drifting our way through," he said.

In his new book "Winning the Future," Gingrich expands on his groundbreaking Contract With America to offer a new blueprint for the future, a "21st-century Contract With America," if you will.

(Ed. Note: "Winning the Future" is only $9.95 this week at the Townhall Book Service.)

UNDISPUTED DEAN

Congratulations to 79-year-old Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, for having now served the longest tenure - 50 years and counting - in the 435-member House of Representatives.

Dingell started his Capitol Hill career in 1955 at the age of 29, when his father died while still a congressman and he stepped in to fill the void. He has since served in 25 Congresses under 10 presidents.

As for the current commander in chief, the veteran Democrat actually praised President Bush's State of the Union address last week, calling it "balanced."

"After years of divisive rhetoric, he spoke like a man wanting to work with the opposition," said Dingell. "It is now my hope that these words are matched with deeds; if they are, I will be happy to work with him."

MAKING HAY

Newly elected House Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio has wasted no time hiring his senior staff, including new Chief of Staff Paula Nowakowski, Deputy Chief of Staff David Schnittger and General Counsel Jo-Marie St. Martin.

Nowakowski became staff director for the Education and the Workforce Committee when Boehner became its chairman five years ago. She previously served four years as communications director for the House Republican Conference and previously was research director at the Republican National Committee.

Schnittger has been Boehner's personal office chief of staff, while St. Martin was the general counsel at the Education and the Workforce Committee, having previously toiled in private practice in Kingsport, Tenn.

SOUTHERN STAPLE

People outside the South don't realize "how much a role a successful barbecue plays in Southern hospitality and politics."

So insists Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican, who says "the first thing one needs to understand is that in the South, the word barbecue itself can be noun, a verb or an adjective. It is more than food, it is a cultural identification and one that crosses all party lines."

He brings all this up in wishing a happy 50th anniversary of culinary and political tradition to Sconyers Barbecue Restaurant in Augusta, Ga., which has even supplied barbecue to the White House.

The congressman says owner Larry Sconyers once got so close to politics it "almost cost us this wonderful asset."

"He was enticed to run for office himself, first serving as a (county commissioner) then as the first mayor of a consolidated Augusta-Richmond County - Georgia's second-largest city - until he retired from direct politics in 1998 to return to the barbecue business."

BEAUTY AND BRAINS

That's Linda Solomon, a one-time model turned protocol director of the House Committee on International Relations chaired by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, gracing the pages of More magazine's "Fearless After 40" cover feature in the February issue.

Solomon, daughter of the late congressman Gerald Solomon, of New York, one of the leading conservative voices in the House before his retirement in 1998 (he died in 2001), was selected by the magazine's New York editors to be among five featured younger-than-life fortysomethings who won't "give up their manes."

"My hair has always been long, except once when I was nine months pregnant," the blond Hill staffer, the mother of a college sophomore, tells the magazine.

"When I got a job on Capitol Hill 11 years ago, I didn't consider cutting it, even though the dress code is pretty conservative here. I have the longest hair in my office, but it's my signature. My hair helps my personality come through even when I'm dressed in tailored suits."

She adds: "My mother, who's in her 70s, still wears her hair long."

PROUD BEANS

We'd written last month of a push by coffee growers in Hawaii to have the White House serve U.S.-made coffee at presidential functions, rather than imported coffee blends from Central and South America.

We have it on good authority that numerous packages of 100 percent U.S.-estate-grown Kona coffee - medium roast to private reserve - have been delivered by promoters of U.S. coffee to White House usher Daniel Shanks (11 pounds, 12 varieties), senior White House aide Karl Rove (4.5 pounds, five varieties), first lady Laura Bush (4.5 pounds, five varieties) and Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick (6.5 pounds, seven varieties).

MEET THE PROFESSORS

Liberal-turned-conservative David Horowitz's new book, "The Professors," exposes what he calls the 100 most-dangerous academics in America.

Among them: a law professor who spent 10 years on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list; a professor who teaches that rap music is an effective tool for learning English literacy; a professor who praised the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon; and an English professor who regards the fall of communism as a "moral catastrophe."

(Ed. Note: Mr. Horowitz's new book is now on sale at the Townhall Book Service for only $19.95.)