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Politics: The Seven Stages of Newt

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For years, Newt Gingrich’s daily affairs and his slowly metamorphosing physical presence have been on constant display for all the world to see. The inner Newt, however, has remained a mystery. Sure, we’ve heard about his fascination with the mating habits of lizards or the workings of a Cray computer. But until the publication of his new book, Lessons Learned the Hard Way: A Personal Report -- and the public discussion of it that he held in New York last week, with CNN’s Jeff Greenfield -- we knew almost nothing about this man’s efforts to heal his own troubled psyche. Perhaps these excerpts from his thoughtful memoir can show the steps by which we might also heal ourselves.

* STEP 1: HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

Trent Lott told me I should wear a certain kind of shirt, and that I should lean forward so as to minimize for the camera how overweight I had let myself become. I was bathed in embarrassment: Things had obviously gone pretty far downhill.

* STEP 2: ADMITTING THE PROBLEM

I, too, like Medicare, began to get overextended. Instead of slowing down and focusing on what we needed to do each day, I kept enlarging our ambitions. . . . It was all too much.

* STEP 3: FOCUSING YOUR ANGER

Where the press is concerned there is also the possibility of being just plain blindsided. When people are actually happy to see you stumble, there is no end to how far they will go to make sure you do it -- including, if need be, picking on innocent and trusting elderly ladies.

* STEP 4: REALIZING YOU ARE NOT ALONE

When you feel yourself beset, or in a period of gloom, being reminded of Abraham Lincoln . . . is not only an important lesson but a great solace as well.

* STEP 5: SETTING REALISTIC GOALS

We are confronted with problems whose solution would actually spell a great new era. . . . If we act with genuinely good sense in the near future, everyone, from senior citizens to baby-boomers to those in their first jobs, can come
out a winner.

* STEP 6: MOVING BEYOND THE HURT

I was still in New York touring the American Museum of Natural History, which was a truly lucky circumstance because it reminded me when I most needed it that there are many happy things in life.

* STEP 7: RELAPSE

The difference between the well-thought-out, unending, and no-holds-barred hostility of the left and the acquiescent, friendship-seeking nature of many of my Republican colleagues never ceases to amaze me. They hit us. We make an excuse. We offer a helping hand. They bite the hand.


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