- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

Shells and cement

The 10 announced Democratic presidential hopefuls should be “dismissed as pawns” on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s political chessboard until the former first lady makes a “definitive, irreversible commitment” to stay out of the 2004 presidential sweepstakes.

So says Roger Hughes, spokesman for the Iowa Presidential Watch, an Iowa-based political watchdog group. He notes that despite Mrs. Clinton’s public denials about becoming a candidate for the 2004 Democratic nomination, “there continues to be a disturbing drumbeat of reports, hints and rumors” that she will eventually seek the nomination.

“Many of the reports are fueled by several recent comments and suggestions from the Clintons themselves,” Mr. Hughes observes. “For those who have watched the Clintons operate over the years … their mutual ability to scheme is legendary and well-documented.”

He says it would be a serious mistake for Democrats to make a financial or even emotional investment in any of the current Democratic candidates as long there’s a prospect that Mrs. Clinton will enter the 2004 campaign mix.

“One of the most disturbing aspects of the Clintons’ approach is they continue to play a political shell game with Democrats and all American voters,” he says. “One day they deny that Hillary will be a candidate and then the next day — out of the other side of their mouths — they drop comment that a presidential bid may still be an option.”

Meanwhile, as Mrs. Clinton sits on the fence, the current slate of 10 Democratic candidates painstakingly try to stand out from the rest of the pack. For instance, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, announced yesterday that he has been endorsed by the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association.

Luntz reruns

We got a chuckle out of political pollster Frank Luntz’s note to business colleagues regarding his new weekly political talk show, “America’s Voices,” which made its debut last Saturday at 6 p.m. on MSNBC.

“Should you find yourselves by a TV, I invite you to tune in,” Mr. Luntz wrote. “If, like me, you will be preoccupied at that time watching the Yankees rout the Devil Rays, you can catch the show on Sunday at 12.”

Doing lunch

First lady Laura Bush is honorary co-chairman of Communities in Schools, which is once again conducting its annual “Lunch With A Leader” online auction to help kids succeed in school and prepare for life.

Currently EBay is accepting bids to break bread with a long list of celebrities. As of yesterday, for example, bidding stood at $2,025 to dine with former first lady Rosalynn Carter, $680 to gaze across the table at ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and $152 to listen to the spiel of political activist/actor Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunnicut of the television show “MASH”).

Not on the auction block this year due to the fact that both recently entered the political arena are California gubernatorial hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger, who fetched $10,000 in last year’s auction, and former NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who accepted a luncheon date for a mere $650.

While Mrs. Bush isn’t on the auction block, she encourages readers to place a bid at www.missionfish.com/LunchWithALeader/index.cfm.

Stalking general

A horse is a horse, oh yes!

Oh yes, he’s a horse, unless —

Unless, of course,

He’s a stalking horse

Like the famous General Wes.

— F.R. Duplantier

Never stop lobbying

“Some would call these lobbyists enlightened to allow a win in overtime by one point by the members of the House.”

—Rep. Jack Quinn, New York Republican, remarking on the annual congressional basketball game against the American League of Lobbyists. Rigged or not, congressmen were the winners for the third time in a row; this year’s score 49-48 in overtime.

Props help

Christopher J. Paulitz, communications director for Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, issued the following news release yesterday: “Just wanted to let all of you know that with the help of a big diamond and a lot of wine, I was able to convince Diane to marry me this weekend.”

• John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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