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Gingrich Writes Act 2 of His Political Life

January 16, 2005|Janet Hook | Times Staff Writer

Next stop was the Capitol that he once dominated, where he had been invited to speak to newly elected House members. At the Capitol were reminders of the once-lofty role he played in the building. An elevator operator gave him an affectionate welcome. He huddled with a top aide to his successor as speaker, J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

But there also were reminders of his now-humbler status. Although he used to travel with a grand entourage, only his daughter, a press aide and a driver accompanied him. His balky cellphone needed to be replaced. He had worn a hole through the bottom of his shoe.

None of that mattered as he motored to a television appearance with evangelist Pat Robertson. En route, he got a senior White House advisor on the phone for a conversation, which he insisted be kept off the record. But he was not shy about detailing his other frequent contacts with administration honchos. In the course of one week, he said, he had lunch with Rumsfeld, conferred with Medicare chief Mark McClellan and met with National Security Council staffers.

Throughout the day, Lubbers received Blackberry messages from her younger sister who was in Atlanta monitoring how Gingrich's book was selling on Amazon. "We're No. 20!" Lubbers said.

As he bounced around the city, Gingrich was still a celebrity. A couple of British TV journalists grabbed him for an interview on the state of American politics. A driver recognized him, honked his horn and encouraged Gingrich to run for president: " '08! Go for it!"

Gingrich settled in for the afternoon at the heart of what one staffer called Newt World -- the offices of his Center for Health Transformation, where he spends most of his time while in Washington.

At the center's new home, the offices were still devoid of decoration -- the walls papered with analyses of projects described in Gingrichian buzz words -- "Consumer Directed Health Care" and "Information-rich HSAs [health savings accounts].

In his office, Gingrich autographed a stack of books and reflected on his future, which he viewed brightly."There is always a next act," Gingrich said. "In America, there are as many acts as you have the courage to face."

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