- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Gingrich on Garrison

Indianapolis-based radio talk-show host Greg Garrison brought his popular show to Capitol Hill this week (the lawyer got into the broadcast business after his successful prosecution of boxer Mike Tyson on rape charges in 1992), and preceding this columnist as one guest yesterday was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Yours truly decided to pull out my pen and paper when Mr. Garrison began to grill Mr. Gingrich about his unusual alliance in recent weeks with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, on proposed health care legislation.

But before we recall that worthwhile exchange, the one-time Republican leader also was asked to preview the 2008 presidential election, as well as to provide his take on the latest rift in the Republican Party, compliments of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Regarding the latter, and an unprecedented filibuster deal Mr. McCain helped orchestrate with Democrats, Mr. Gingrich didn’t mince his words.

“I’m very concerned about McCain pulling the rug out from under President Bush,” he said, adding that to label it “mutiny” would be “insulting to the word ‘mutiny.’”

Brushing aside whether he is contemplating a run for the White House in 2008, Mr. Gingrich did rattle off several competent contenders for his party’s nomination, starting in order with Virginia Sen. George Allen, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mr. McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel.

“Unless,” he quickly added, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Vice President Dick Cheney “decide to run. Otherwise, it’s a wide-open race.”

Finally, with regard to his cozying up with Mrs. Clinton (“She’s like shaking hands with a rattlesnake,” Mr. Garrison observed) to promote legislation to improve medical record-keeping and thus avoid deadly mistakes, Mr. Gingrich assured Mr. Garrison’s listeners that his only goal — and Mrs. Clinton’s, no doubt — is to save lives.

“I’m sure that every liberal is warning Mrs. Clinton about standing on the same platform as Newt Gingrich, just as every conservative is warning me about standing on the same platform as Mrs. Clinton,” he said. “But if we can save 20, 30, 40 thousand American lives per year in this country, isn’t it worth it?”

Beware of dogs

U.S. Air Force uniforms — you either like them or you don’t.

That made our dinner conversation this week with TV talking warhead Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of defense under former President George Bush, all the more intriguing.

Mr. Babbin, for background, served in the Air Force from 1973 to 1977, stationed first at McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., before his transfer to Washington.

“In Sacramento,” he recalled, “they had many self-service post office kiosks where you could buy stamps, weigh packages and so forth. One afternoon, on the way home from the base, I stopped at one near my apartment.

“Ahead of me in line, a little old lady was fussing and punching the buttons on a stamp dispenser. Increasingly irate, she turned away to leave, spotted me in my USAF summer uniform — then the one with an open-collared blue shirt and blue chino pants — and started yelling at me about when the heck we were going to fix those darn machines?

“Doing my best not to shout with laughter, I grabbed one side of my collar, thumbed my captain’s bars at her, and said, ‘Lady, Air Force, not post office.’”

The mistaken identity didn’t stop there.

“About two years later, living in an Arlington neighborhood with many young families, I was often greeted on my walk back from the bus stop by some kid shouting, ‘Mom, mom! Here comes the mailman!’”

The military officer’s commute to work wasn’t any easier.

“The topper was when the bus driver asked me one morning to buy him some uniform pants at the base exchange because we wore the same ones. I declined.”

All that said, we won’t forget the interview we had in 1993 with then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Merrill McPeak, on the heels of the Air Force issuing a new uniform.

“The new service dress uniform is a clean, streamlined design,” beamed Gen. McPeak, adding that before it passed muster, the uniform underwent a wear test (more than 700 Air Force officers participated) to see how officers felt about the new design, three different fabrics, fit and comfort — and, most importantly, individuality.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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