- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2001

The old playbook

Even though some of the loudest complaints about Bill Clinton's recent behavior have come from Democrats and liberals, former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart decided to stick with the old White House playbook: Any criticism of Mr. Clinton is just raw partisanship by Republicans who hate the former president.

However, NBC's Katie Couric was not buying that argument on Tuesday morning's "Today" program.

The Media Research Center transcribed Mrs. Couric's response to Mr. Lockhart: "It's interesting that you blame the Republican attack machine. Doesn't President Clinton have to take responsibility for some of his actions here?"

A remarkable thing

Having worked for two U.S. presidents named George Bush, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card says the younger Mr. Bush is more of a Texan, has more of a domestic interest and is less willing to let meetings drag on, Reuters reports.

To avoid confusion, Mr. Card tends to refer to the Bush presidents as 43 for George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, and 41 for George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president. The numbers are nicknames son and father call each other sometimes.

"They are different," Mr. Card said in an interview in his West Wing office. "But 43 has many of the attributes of 41."

Mr. Card was deputy chief of staff under Bush the elder and also his transportation secretary. He has a unique view on the White House, having served as a top aide under both Bushes as well as under President Reagan, reporter Steve Holland writes.

Mr. Bush has grown much from the tobacco-chewing youth Mr. Card first met in 1979 to the man who strode confidently into the Oval Office after his inauguration. The scene is burned into Mr. Card's memory.

"He walked in like a man with a mission. And I felt that he grew when he took that first step into the Oval Office," Mr. Card said.

"As he came up the colonnade [outside], I could see excitement, yet a degree of, maybe, a question. But when he walked in the door, the question was answered.

"And then, standing in the office, his dad came in. And they didn't even have to speak. It was pretty unusual to see a father and son who are peers. But they were peers at that moment. That was a pretty remarkable thing," Mr. Card said.

Not welcome

A London-based financial firm has abandoned plans for former President Bill Clinton to speak at an investment-banking conference because it fears being dragged into the controversies dogging him, according to published reports.

UBS Warburg, the parent company of brokerage house PaineWebber, pulled out of discussions to offer Mr. Clinton a paid speaking engagement at the April conference, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported.

UBS Warburg also was worried that a large speaking fee might give the appearance of impropriety since one of its senior executives had written a letter to Mr. Clinton urging him to pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich, the Associated Press reports.

The last-minute pardon of Mr. Rich has been a central issue in the uproar swirling around Mr. Clinton in the weeks since he left office. The House Government Reform Committee is looking into the matter and the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings yesterday.

The UBS Warburg letter, written by executive Pierre de Weck on Dec. 4, urged Mr. Clinton to pardon Mr. Rich, describing him as "an honest, upright citizen who has also been very charitable."

Spokesmen for UBS Warburg, formerly known as Union Bank of Switzerland, declined to comment on the decision.

Last week, investment firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. apologized to customers for paying Mr. Clinton $100,000 for a speech during an investment conference in Florida.

Ney's Valentine

Rep. Bob Ney had nothing but romantic intentions when he invited his girlfriend on a Valentine's Day tour of the Capitol dome. But there was a hitch, the Associated Press reports.

"I didn't know she was afraid of heights," the Ohio Republican said yesterday.

The object of the congressman's affections Liz Mikropoulos of Bellaire, Ohio climbed as far as she could, then offered to wait while everyone else went all the way to the top.

What she didn't know was that the others were carrying champagne and a portable stereo to provide extra atmosphere when Mr. Ney popped the question from the highest point on Capitol Hill.

So, the bottle of bubbly and mood music had to come out early. On a landing somewhere below the top of the 180-foot Rotunda, Mr. Ney pulled out a special lapel pin available only to the husbands and wives of members of Congress.

"I said, 'Would you like to wear a spouse pin?' She didn't understand what I meant at first, but then she said 'yes.'

"We're going to get a ring later."

The couple plan to marry in May.

Bill and O.J.

"In abandoning pricey Midtown for Harlem as the site of his future office, Bill Clinton formerly known as 'America's first black president' looks to be morphing into 'America's first white O.J.,' " New York Post columnist Robert A. George writes.

"Here we have two men who have each been exonerated in one adjudicated body, yet found their obvious misdeeds exposed in later action official and otherwise," Mr. George said.

"Their cool and hip friends, worshippers and sycophants of years past have disappeared. It seems only one community willingly accepts them with no questions asked.

"How did it come to this? How has it suddenly turned that the rock-star lifestyle anticipated for the ex-president may not turn out quite as planned?"

The columnist added: "Who knows? Next time Clinton heads to Florida, perhaps he can compare notes with O.J. and ask if he can help him do a search of his own for the 'real killers' of his legacy."

Status insecurity

"Clinton's abortive attempt to move into the 56th floor at Carnegie Hall Tower was the kind of flamboyant look-at-me gesture that a parvenu might make," USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro writes.

"Even if Clinton had been paying the rent out of his own pocket (fat chance), his choice of locale suggested terminal status insecurity. The office suite was far more appropriate for the previous tenant, Tina Brown, the editor of the glitz-and-glitter monthly magazine Talk," Mr. Shapiro said.

"What Clinton has belatedly learned, or at least now has shrewdly pretended to absorb, is that the identity of the tenant brings status to an office address, not the other way around. As a former president, Clinton could get away with setting up shop in a corner of the Port Authority bus terminal.

"But Clinton has always behaved, even at the height of his political success, as if he were afraid that at any moment he would be transported back to his days as the fat kid playing the saxophone in the Hot Springs, Ark., high school band."

Classified information

President Bush and his wife, separated by the miles, exchanged romantic gifts for Valentine's Day.

Laura Bush, spending time in Texas, sent her husband a heart-shaped coconut cream pie. The president sent his wife a dozen roses, the Associated Press reports.

Asked the color of the roses, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer joked with reporters aboard Air Force One: "That's classified information."

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