POWER VACCUUM 101. One thing you can say about Newt Gingrich: the guy doesn't pull his punches.

On Sunday, Newt announced, on "Meet the Press," the commencement of World War III in the Middle East and explained how to use that characterization of the current wars there as an election strategy.

Come Monday, he carried his game plan to two distinct, if overlapping, constituencies: right-wing politicos and self-identified "born-again" Christians. To the rabidly liberal-hating, Ann Coulter-loving readers of Human Events Online, Gingrich laid out his whole clash-of-civilizations WWIII scenario -- targeting, one presumes, the Capitol Hill crowd. In a longish discourse with numerous bulleted points, the disgraced former House Speaker connected North Korea's bomb, a number of alleged terrorist plots targeting North American sites, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the Mumbai bombings and the "Iran-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas terrorist alliance."

Offering numbered talking points on the subject, Gingrich began with this:

1. It's Us Versus Them: The American people and free people everywhere must come to recognize that we are in a world war that pits civilization against terrorists and their state sponsors who wish to impose a new dark age -- with them in charge. Everything our leaders do must be judged by whether it helps or hurts us in defeating terrorists and their state sponsors.

For the readers of the religious-right publication, Church Report, Gingrich deployed his own talking points in an essay:

In a Third World War, there will be two sides, those who believe we're in a war to defend civilization � and therefore must defeat the terrorists and their state sponsors � and those who are made uncomfortable by the price of defeating terrorists and therefore will seek accommodation and appeasement with those whose values are irreconcilable with our own.

Yesterday, The Washington Post pointed to Gingrich as an example of the right wing's turn from President Bush. Truth is, Bush's approval numbers are low, and Gingrich sees his moment in the subsequent power vacuum.

--Adele M. Stan