GERSON RETURNS. Look, we all loved the snappy patter between Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler as they wrote high-flown speeches ("The streets of heaven are too filled with angels tonight." Wowser!) for President Jed on The West Wing. In the real world, alas, speechwriters are paid liars, no more or less so than admen or campaign consultants. Their job is to whore out their words -- at, it must be said, a decent price -- for whichever politician is cutting them a check this year. It can be safely said that there was nobody more in demand in this peculiar house of horizontal refreshment than Michael Gerson, the faith-drippy blowhard to whom Newsweek curiously handed a couple thousand words this week so that Gerson could demonstrate to the public at large the various stages of the speechwriter's Kama Sutra that made him everybody's choice at the morning lineup.

The grossest, most wretched lie that Gerson promulgated, of course, was that George W. Bush, as manifestly Not Up To The Job as any president in history, was a man of broad vision through whom the great engine of history would work in glorious wonder, wha-dee-doo-dah. Of course, all the available evidence -- which is, by now, considerable -- indicates that, absent a script, Bush couldn't get from a subject to a verb without breaking his ankle, and that his "vision" for turning Iraq into Rhode Island has fallen victim to his incompetence and to the comic-opera hubris of the people who teach him about the world. Nevertheless, here's Gerson again, running us through all Seven Veils, and here's Newsweek, silly old man in a raincoat, paying $150 for a bottle of watered-down champagne. Turns out it's our fault, for not steadfastly standing by our stations while the administration takes the country over the falls. Lacking a decent copyright lawyer, poor Jesus of Nazareth gets mercilessly paraphrased, his original words merely clay for a true master's hand.

"And from London to Lebanon," writes Gerson, "history is proving that peace is not a natural state; it is achieved by a struggle of uncertain duration. In that struggle, the cynical, the world-weary, the risk-averse will not inherit the earth."

Give the man credit. Sending the Sermon On The Mount to the chop-shop and bringing it out as a shiny new argument for eternal war takes what both James The Greater and The Lesser would have called "chutzpah." It's useless to point out that Gerson is writing these highfalutin' sentiments from the shattered parapets of Fort Honorarium. And it's equally useless to point out that Newsweek failed on almost every journalistic level by publishing this dreck of an infomercial. All we can hope is that Gerson's shift is finally over, and Newsweek�s editors can run, hats down over their eyes, to their cars in the parking lot under the electric pussycat and the flashing pink neon sign that says, "Girls, Girls, Girls!"

--Charles P. Pierce