John McCaslin

Step back

The fact that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be today's luncheon speaker at the National Press Club caught our attention, given that the Fourth Estate's 2008 "presidential candidate luncheon series" kicked off only last week with Delaware senator and Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But unless he totally surprises everybody, Mr. Gingrich won't be appearing as a Republican candidate, although arguably he understands the domestic political landscape and foreign policy stage as do few in contention for the White House. Which isn't to say that Mr. Gingrich won't be making headlines today.

Just yesterday, the former Republican leader informed the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce in Georgia that the "odds are fairly significant that 'the left' will win next year."

And, in his opinion, the future Democratic president and vice president will be?

"My personal bet is that it'll be a Clinton-Obama ticket. I think they have a very high likelihood of winning," Mr. Gingrich said of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which was on hand for Mr. Gingrich's early breakfast remarks, the former speaker pinned much of the blame for the Republican slide on the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"The Republican challenge is, until they get past being President Bush, they have an enormous difficulty in getting people to open their minds. Six months ago in the polling numbers, Rudy Giuliani was ahead of Clinton. He is now behind. He's the strongest Republican in terms of popular vote, whether you're for him or against him."

As for Mr. Bush, Mr. Gingrich said his inability to communicate with the public about Iraq has now trickled down to the campaigns of Republican presidential candidates.

"We cannot get him to master the art that Reagan had and that Lincoln had, of talking to the American people in a form in which they are comfortable," Mr. Gingrich said of Mr. Bush. "So my first advice to the president was, 'Don't say anything anymore. Keep quiet.' "

Odd year

If you think it's been slow-going on Capitol Hill since the new Democrat-controlled Congress convened in January, official Washington has really ground to a halt now that the legislative body has adjourned until Sept. 4 — its members fleeing town like spooked animals.

Whether or not you think our elected representatives deserve a long summer holiday, it so happens that their annual August recess is now required by law.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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