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Since leaving the White House, Michael Gerson has had more time to relax—if you call his form of play relaxing.

When President Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson left the White House after more than five years, it was time to write in his own voice. He launched into a book project, and the result—Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America’s Ideals (and Why They Deserve to Fail if They Don’t)—emerged late last year.

With the White House’s grueling schedule and the book behind him, Gerson, a columnist for the Washington Post and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, now has more time for serious play with his family.

The Gerson basement is an energized game room, with a 52-inch TV and PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Wii systems. It’s here that he enjoys Die Hard movies or plays Madden NFL with his two sons—a contrast with his own youth, which was marked by rigorous study and an absence of play.

“I wouldn’t want my own children to be this way,” says Gerson, recognizing his Type A tendencies.

When his sons, ages 10 and 12, see Dad lapsing into bad habits—treating play like work—they let him know. The family loves Disney World, and their last trip was a bit of a triumph for Gerson.

“I love the intellectual challenge of Disney World,” he says, “because if you master the order of the rides, you don’t ever stand in lines, even on the most crowded days.” After four days with a rigid schedule, his sons begged for a “day off.” He yielded.

He doesn’t yield at games. His older son may beat him in Wii bowling, but when it comes to Madden NFL, the Indianapolis Colts—Gerson’s team—consistently humiliate his younger son’s team, the New England Patriots.

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