HERE'S A NEWT PROPOSAL ON MURDOCH BOOK DEAL

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Please allow me this week to make a couple of modest suggestions to solve some of the pressing problems of the world.

Oftentimes, grave and profound issues can be expeditiously handled by putting forth simple solutions. Then, when we finally figure out how to solve them, we wonder what the fuss was about.

Take Newt Gingrich's book contract-please. The deal with Rupert Murdoch's book company, Harper Collins, is taking up entirely too much of Congress' time, what with partisan calls for a special counsel to investigate favoritism. I myself believe Mr. Murdoch when he says he didn't even know there was a book deal brewing when he and his lobbyist at Fox Television met with Rep. Gingrich. And I believe Rep. Gingrich when he says he didn't know Mr. Murdoch owned Harper Collins.

The solution to this knotty little conflict of interest problem is not to drop the book deal altogether, as most Democrats and some Republicans have suggested. Rep. Gingrich's political views are newsworthy and eminently readable, hence so many book publishers are rushing out quickie books on his speeches and interviews, all of which are in the public domain. So if everybody else can get rich on his views, why shouldn't Rep. Gingrich cash in? The problem is that the perception remains that Mr. Murdoch had an axe to grind when his book company gave Rep. Gingrich his deal. So why don't both parties gracefully bow out of the contract (Mr. Murdoch doesn't need the grief either) and Rep. Gingrich can sign with another book publisher, one whose parent company is seeking no special favors.

To further mollify critics who are unhappy he will earn big bucks from book royalties, why doesn't Rep. Gingrich donate a percentage of his profits to a charity both Republicans and Democrats support (if that's possible)?

Now that that problem's solved, I'd like to tackle the baseball situation. I firmly believe that what the baseball owners are trying to foist on the American public in the form of replacement players is contempt of the highest order.

Why would anyone want to support such perversion? I suggest it does not qualify as legitimate news that these "has-beens and never-wases," in the words of The Wall Street Journal's new sports page, will try to play baseball this spring and summer. So the nation's newspapers and TV stations should ignore their ineptitudes and banish their very existence from their pages and airwaves. The replacements' winning and losing won't count anyway when (or if) the real season gets underway, so why pretend the games have any meaning?

No ink and no airtime will mean no interest, no interest will mean no attendance at the ballparks, no attendance will mean no money for the owners, no money will mean they won't need a salary cap anymore, no salary cap means the dispute will be settled.

I'm very glad to be of service in these two matters, and I gladly volunteer my good office to a really intractable problem-keeping Scottie Pippen gainfully employed in Chicago.

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