- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Well put, Joe

"Let me try to be serious for at least one or two moments, before I go back to what it is I do normally."
Joe Lockhart, President Clinton's chief spokesman, speaking to reporters yesterday.

Hearing from Hillary

We wrote yesterday that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is suddenly eager to be commencement speaker for next month's graduation ceremony at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y.
Navy Secretary Richard Danzig had already agreed to be the speaker, we pointed out, but this, after all, is an election year.
That said, we were reminded yesterday by one member of the U.S. Senate, who asks not to be identified, of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, when World War II hero Sen. Bob Dole was all set to speak to the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
West Point's superintendent not only invited Mr. Dole to deliver the address, but to lead a parade, in his honor, of 4,000 cadets. Mr. Dole was so pleased he immediately began drafting his remarks, focusing mostly on his wartime experiences.
In the meantime, as required, West Point's invitation was sent to the Pentagon for approval by the secretary of defense. It was denied. Kenneth Bacon, to this day the Pentagon's spokesman, took credit for the rejection. It was against regulations for the news media to accompany presidential candidates on military bases, he explained.
As our Senate source pointed out yesterday, the Merchant Marine Academy does not fall under Pentagon stewardship, "but it is publicly funded with federal dollars, and one would assume the same principle [of speaking at commencements] would apply to a U.S. Senate candidate," i.e., Mrs. Clinton.
"Come to think of it, given the Dole precedent, why was it appropriate to invite [along with Mrs. Clinton] the vice president, who is a candidate for public office?" he asks.

Calls for Lazio

"The phone is ringing off the hook," a House staffer in Rep. Rick A. Lazio's office said yesterday, the first official work day since the Long Island Republican announced on Saturday that he is challenging Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton for the soon-to-be vacant New York Senate seat.
And it wasn't just the congressman's New York constituents jamming the switchboards.
"We're getting calls from as far away as California and Washington state, people offering to help the congressman get elected to the Senate," said the staffer.

Meet Rick Lazio

Since the media is quick to note that nobody knows New York Rep. Rick A. Lazio, now officially butting heads with Hillary Rod-ham Clinton, allow us to "reintroduce" you to the congressman.
After all, we've been writing about Mr. Lazio for years. Our favorite tale is from 1998, when the White House first snubbed the Long Island lawmaker.
Mr. Lazio had joined Rep. Paul McHale of Pennsylvania (the first Democrat to call for President Clinton to resign in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal) in introducing the Theodore Roosevelt Medal of Honor bill.
Once passed by Congress, the bill went to the White House for Mr. Clinton's signature. Excited about the long-awaited signing, and wanting to be certain he was in town, Mr. Lazio had his office call the White House to learn the date and time of the ceremony.
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, for instance, Mr. Lazio's office contacted White House aide Matt Bianco, who assured them the ceremony wasn't yet scheduled.
On Thursday, Nov. 12, Mr. Lazio's office called again, and Mr. Bianco once again assured them no date was set.
Funny, because this column learned that the White House, on the previous evening, alerted Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, that the signing would take place the following afternoon, Nov. 12, at 12:45 p.m.
We subsequently learned that Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican, was notified of the ceremony Nov. 11, as was New York Rep. Peter T. King (one of the few GOP members who spoke out against impeaching Mr. Clinton). Tweed Roosevelt, great-grandson of Theodore, was also invited well in advance.
But not Mr. Lazio and Mr. McHale, the two congressmen who made the medal possible in the first place. Oh, Mr. Lazio was notified of the 12:45 p.m. ceremony, but not until 11:30 a.m., when he was on Long Island. Mr. McHale was told 60 minutes beforehand, when he was in Pennsylvania.
The best part of our story was when Mr. Bianco, asked for an explanation, referred us to his "boss."

To each their own

"We welcome you regardless of what gender you are or what gender you want to hold hands with."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew, writing in a page-long essay, "Why I Am a Democrat."

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