- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

Campaign rewind

Five shopping days left until voters choose who will be the next president of the United States.

It's hard to believe, but 15 months ago eager candidates flocked to the cornfields of the Midwest for an all-important Iowa straw poll, shrinking the Republican field to what was described at the time as the top tier of four: George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, Elizabeth Dole and Gary Bauer.

Also-rans, or so the early results reflected, were Lamar Alexander, Alan Keyes, Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan and Orrin G. Hatch. As for John McCain, he didn't even participate, and if he had, he'd have finished in ninth place.

What did the Iowans know?

Mr. McCain, of course, impressively outdistanced the rest of the field and gave Mr. Bush his biggest run for the money. Mr. Keyes and Mr. Buchanan also hung tough, the latter joining the Reform Party.

On the Democratic side, Al Gore finished off a persistent Bill Bradley, only to see Green Party candidate Ralph Nader surface as a credible spoiler in the battle for the White House.

Mr. Nader and Mr. Buchanan, unfortunately, were prohibited from participating in the three presidential debates. After all, in past debates the candidate who created a "memorable moment," or "magical sound bite," woke up the next morning that much closer to the White House.

As it turns out, there were no magical moments in any of the debates. Support for Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush is virtually unchanged, and the election remains too close to call.

Mr. Nader, meanwhile, will finish no better than third on Tuesday, but he is far more of a threat to Mr. Gore than Mr. Buchanan is to his former party's standard-bearer.

Finally, were we to declare a winner for the most "memorable" line in this long campaign, it would be Mr. Buchanan, promising that if sworn in as president, "the first thing I would have to do is turn to Bill Clinton and say, 'Sir, you have the right to remain silent.' "

Sausage, Larry?

One of the closest hotels to the White House the St. Regis on 16th Street is already advertising a presidential inaugural package for those who want to celebrate the inauguration of the 43rd president in style.

Cost: $100,000.

If the price seems steep, the three-night stay in the two-bedroom presidential suite includes power lunches and dinners, champagne and caviar, nightly cordials and cigars, Tiffany & Co. gifts, beauty treatments, limousine service, monogrammed robes, fresh flowers, and having TV talkmeister Larry King join you for breakfast.

In fact, $50,000 of the total package price is tax deductible, the hotel promises, so long as it's donated to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

Best costume

Peter Roff, a well-known Washington political strategist, says he was out trick-or-treating with his children Tuesday night in the left-leaning streets of Alexandria, Va., "and we come up to a house that has standing in front of it a life-size cardboard cutout of Al Gore nothing else, just a Gore cutout with a sign attached to it that says: 'This is the scariest thing we could think of.' "

Paying for votes

A nonpartisan on-line "get-out-the-vote" campaign is offering a $10,000 reward to the individual who can get the most friends, family members and colleagues to pledge to vote on Tuesday.

Specifically, the reward money will go the person who can spur the most people to sign an "I Pledge to Vote" promise posted at VotePledge.org.

"In 1998, voter turnout was only 42 percent," notes organizer Wes Boyd. "We must do better, and with the power of the Internet we can do better."

If that's not enough …

"Taylor Takes Cash From Group That Supports Obscene Art, Flag Burning and Gay Scoutmasters."

One final campaign release issued yesterday by Rep. Robin Hayes, North Carolina Republican, referring to his Democratic challenger, Mike Taylor.

Gertz sequel

Since his desk is next to ours, we'd be remiss in not reporting that the newly released book by Washington Times national security correspondent Bill Gertz "The China Threat: How the People's Republic Targets America" has become Amazon.com's No. 1 seller.

Amazon's hourly sales for the title were somewhere around 14,000 at one point yesterday, and that was before Internet reporter Matt Drudge splashed a headline across his page describing the book as a "massive document leak."

Reuters News Agency, meanwhile, wrote yesterday of one secret U.S. intelligence report culled from Mr. Gertz's book, revealing that China had at least 37 spies concentrating on ferreting out U.S. nuclear arms secrets in the mid-1990s Los Alamos, anyone? and the effort had been "very successful."

Mr. Gertz's book, his second in as many years, details not only espionage against the United States by China but also by Russia, France, Israel, Japan and India, among other countries.

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