- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pause for publicity

Nobody was more delighted than Simon & Schuster imprint Free Press when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told a White House press conference Friday that he could not answer a specific question surrounding September 11 because he was “honor bound” by his book contract.

As booksellers know, you can’t buy that kind of publicity.

That morning Gen. Musharraf’s 368-page “In the Line of Fire: A Memoir” was hovering around No. 1,300 in advance sales on Amazon. By Friday evening, book sales had jumped to No. 120, and yesterday — the date of its official release — the memoir leaped to No. 7 in nonfiction.

The boost in book interest began when Gen. Musharraf dodged a reporter’s question about a purported post-September 11 threat by the Bush administration to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age.”

The Pakistani president said he was honoring his publisher’s request not to discuss anything contained in the memoir — at which point President Bush interjected, “Buy the book is what he’s saying.”

Mr. Musharraf’s literary agent, Chris Calhoun, told Inside the Beltway yesterday that he thinks Mr. Bush “ought to plug more books.”

The New York agent said this is the first time he has represented a sitting president in this type of book deal.

“I had never heard of a sitting president writing a memoir before he leaves office,” Mr. Calhoun said. “They’ve written books, of course, but not memoirs. But his is a special case, because his life is such a dangerous one.”

Now that yesterday’s release date has come and gone, Gen. Musharraf is telling all. He began his day yesterday, for instance, on the set of NBC’s “Today” program. Today, he will sit down with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer in “The Situation Room,” and then appear on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

If that’s not enough of Gen. Musharraf, he can be heard tomorrow on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and seen next Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert.

Packing it in

We told you recently about the U.S. congressman who was riled by French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s remark that “against terrorism, what we need is not a war. It is, as France has done for many years, a determined fight based on vigilance at all times and effective cooperation with our partners.”

Now, an unlikely ally is defending France, saying it’s the Americans, not the French, who are “losing the will to fight.”

In the latest issue of the American Conservative, Pat Buchanan recalls France’s heroism during World War I, when in a single month — August 1914 — French casualties totaled 260,000. In fact, 27,000 Frenchmen died on Aug. 22 alone.

“On Aug. 22, 1914, France lost 10 times as many dead as we [Americans] have lost during the entire Iraq war,” Mr. Buchanan notes. “Those who mock alleged French cravenness might reflect: France fought for four more years after that horrible August and lost 1.3 million men. Yet 60 percent of Americans are ready to pack it in in Iraq.”

He cites numerous reasons for Americans wanting to cut and run from Baghdad and beyond, not the least being that current generations are “no longer into dying for God and country.”

“Western man, including many Americans, is into self-indulgence. Make love, not war,” he said.

Expensive lessons

Salary of the White House’s new director for lessons learned: $106,641

Harper’s Index, October 2006

Deck the halls

Say you teach in a public school and you want to celebrate Christmas in your classroom with like-minded students, what’s a teacher to do?

Go right ahead, says Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. We’ve come across a letter sent to the secretary by a teacher named Karen in Salt Lake City. She writes:

“I’m so frustrated with the U.S. trying to get ‘Christmas’ out of our vocabulary. In a Fox News poll, 96 percent of Americans, people of all faiths, celebrate Christmas. So, my question is: What are we allowed to teach and say in school?

“All of my kids celebrate Christmas, not ‘Winter Holiday.’ (I asked.) I know I can say Merry Christmas. Can I decorate our room with Christmas stuff? I’m not teaching them about Christ, but I heard that it was OK to say that Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth for Christians. Thank you.”

Mrs. Spellings replied: “Christmas is one of the great joys of the year for many Americans of all ages. In fact, Congress recognized Dec. 25 as a public holiday in 1870.

“Schools and teachers traditionally have celebrated the secular aspects of Christmas and are free to do so today. Educators may also teach students about the religion and history behind Christmas, Hanukkah and other religious holidays. Of course, some students may not wish to participate in Christmas celebrations, and their beliefs should be respected as well. With this in mind, I hope you celebrate and enjoy the season with our students.”

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

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