- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

BOOK REVIEW:

5 Principles for a Successful Life:
From Our Family to Yours

By Newt Gingrich and Jackie Gingrich Cushman
Crown Forum, $22, 210 pages
REVIEWED BY JOHN R. COYNE JR.

Newt Gingrich and his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, a columnist involved in lifelong learning and a variety of nonprofit activities, have produced a book intended to help readers achieve success, that they define as “adding value to people’s lives and making a difference in the world around us.”

“Together,” they write, “our family has found that by following five principles, anyone can improve his or her life and create success: Dream Big, Work Hard, Learn Every Day, Enjoy Life, and Be True to Yourself.” These principles serve as headings for sections introduced by the authors in which a variety of successful people tell how they applied them in their own lives. Among the contributors: John R. Bolton, Tom Brokaw, Bill Clinton, Whoopi Goldberg, Lou Holtz, Rush Limbaugh, Mary Matalin, David H. Petraeus.

All the contributions are quick, fresh, interesting, and in some cases - Ms. Gingrich, Mary Matalin, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin - just plain nice. But the contributions that will be most scrutinized, for obvious political reasons, are those by Mr. Gingrich.

Here he is on dreaming big: “The ultimate fate of any free society rests with our elected political leadership, and I decided it was my duty to become one of those leaders. This became my goal, my mission, my dream. … I ran for Congress twice unsuccessfully. … After two defeats I won election and achieved my dream of becoming a leader for America.”

The whole subject of leadership resonates today in one important part of America - the conservative part. Congressional elections are looming just down the road, and the issues to be fought out in those elections may well define the shape of electoral battles to come. Over the short term, the conservative problem is identifying those issues and staking out positions that differentiate them from their opponents. At present, however, issues are blurred, alternatives unconvincing, solutions in short supply; and there is no one leader making the conservative case.

Many see Mr. Gingrich as the man for the job. As a former aide puts it, Mr. Gingrich is the Republican “intellect-in-chief,” an “idea man” with a proven history of translating those ideas into political reality. In 1994, with Republicans in deep disarray, Mr. Gingrich took the reins in the House, pulled the various strands of the party back into something like Reaganite unity, and implemented the Contract with America.

As a result, Republicans gained 52 seats and took a majority in the House for the first time since the Eisenhower years. As the historian Lee Edwards notes, Mr. Gingrich’s Contract With America “was the tip of a great conservative iceberg that tore into the seemingly permanent Democratic majority in Congress and sank it faster than the Titanic.”

As Time magazine observed, “Leaders make things possible. Exceptional leaders make them inevitable. Newt Gingrich belongs in the category of exceptional.”

Earlier this year, in an opinion piece in The Washington Times (Feb. 11),) Mr. Gingrich wrote that the conservative movement can once again succeed if it will “Advocate first principles with courage, clarity, persistence and cheerfulness” and “Insist on developing solutions based on those principles. …” It was Ronald Reagan’s great strength, says Mr. Gingrich, that he advocated first principles with clarity, passion and good cheer. In “5 Principles,” Mr. Gingrich writes: “Cheerfulness can get almost anything done. One of President Reagan’s great strengths was his commitment to big ideas and his willingness to remain cheerful no matter what the difficulties were. It made him likeable and approachable and easy to support.”

Over his career, Mr. Gingrich may have been perceived by his political enemies - and like all highly intelligent public men with strong ideas he has his share - as something less than a man of good cheer. But those enemies could conceivably soften just a bit if they read this good-natured and cheerful book. And why not read it? After all, Mr. Clinton approves.

Cynics may call it another step in a larger campaign aimed directly at the White House. And others may see it as an opportunity for a proud father to showcase the considerable talents of his co-author and daughter Ms. Gingrich Cushman and to honor her sister, Kathy, who despite a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, completed a marathon to fight the disease.

But whatever the motivations, Mr. Gingrich is undoubtedly a man of ideas who understands issues and can articulate solutions - qualities that have never been in greater demand.

And finally, his enemies might consider this. After watching Richard Nixon with his family at the Republican National Convention in Miami in 1968, Norman Mailer concluded: A man with daughters like that can’t be all bad.

John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author with Linda Bridges of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley and the American Conservative Movement,” published by Wiley.

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