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For Now, Gingrich Focuses on His Book, Not Politics

When is a book more than just a book?

In the case of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), that depends on the answer to another question. When does a politician stop being a politician?

Gingrich’s new book, “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract With America,” which was released Jan. 10 by Regnery Publishing Inc., can be read in one of two ways. Newsweek magazine has called it “a campaign book if there ever was one,” and the Los Angeles Times dubbed it “a presidential candidate’s manifesto.”

But, according to Gingrich, it is, quite simply, a book of ideas. Gathered since his time serving in the House and meant to help the average American citizen understand some of the most pressing dangers facing this country, the ideas in the book were meant to spur discussion about important issues and not about Gingrich himself, the former Speaker explained.

But then, Gingrich never expected Washington to stop being Washington.

“I think it’s almost inevitable, if you talk about ideas in Washington you almost certainly are going to have people translating it into ambition,” he said. “It’s inconceivable that someone can just talk about ideas.”

But despite the talk and speculation, Gingrich said he’ll stay focused on the book, nothing more.

“You have two choices. You can either do nothing or be misinterpreted. I choose to be misinterpreted,” he said. “We just finished a year of 30-second attack commercials and personal nastiness, let’s spend two years talking about what we need to focus on.”

So these days, every time Gingrich goes on air, he said he tries to keep the talk focused on “Winning the Future,” and especially on what he describes to readers as the “five threats that, taken collectively, are as daunting and difficult as any America has faced.”

These threats include the possibility that Islamic terrorists and rogue dictatorships will acquire and launch nuclear or biological weapons; that God will be driven from American public life; that America will lose the patriotic sense of itself as a unique civilization; that the American economy will yield to China and India because of failing schools and weakening scientific and technological leadership; and that America’s demands on Social Security, Medicare and related government programs will collapse the system.

“Four of them could undermine, even eliminate, America as we know it, while the fifth could leave us weakened, impoverished, and with much less freedom,” Gingrich writes.

And over the course of the next 15 chapters, Gingrich lays out his updated “Contract With America,” presenting his vision on everything from overhauling intelligence gathering and Social Security to putting patriotism back into the public school curriculum and acknowledging God in the public sphere.

“It’s not designed to be a Republican or Democratic book,” he said, shrugging off criticism that “Winning the Future” was written for “inside the Beltway” types. “It’s consciously written for the American citizen.”

The former Speaker said he spent five years thinking about, researching and talking to experts about the book and three months crafting this “new contract.”

The result is Gingrich’s own map through the minefield in which America now finds itself. And, keeping with the 21st century theme, each chapter comes complete with a corresponding Web page on newt.org that allows readers to further pursue the former Speaker’s ideas on each issue.

One of the most interesting components of the book is a section titled “Our Creator in the Capital: A Walking Tour of God in Washington, D.C.,” located in the book’s appendix. Gingrich’s mini-tour booklet takes the reader around Washington from the National Archives to Arlington Cemetery to highlight “the power and centrality of God in American history.”

“I’ve been trying to get across to secularists and atheists that they are just plain wrong about the role of God in American history,” Gingrich said, adding that he hopes his self-guided tour will soon catch on among visitors to the nation’s capital.

In the coming months, Gingrich plans to deliver his new contract to the American people in a book tour that will take him to many of America’s political hot spots. While not usually included on the typical book tour circuit, Gingrich plans to visit both Iowa and New Hampshire — another fact that continues to fuel speculation that the former Speaker might be planning a political comeback of the presidential variety in 2008.

But Gingrich explained that his choice of stops was based on simple economics.

“If you want to shape the political language of America, the two places you go are Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said. “There is no more cost effective return on shaping debate. … Every politician and campaign journalist has to go there.”

And so Gingrich, the author, will go there, too.

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