- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Underlying key

To help him filter through all the campaign platforms and promises in the 2004 presidential contest, Washington lobbyist for manufacturing Fred Nichols recently put on his economist hat — only to discover a subliminal campaign message.

Mr. Nichols found that if you chart manufacturing production from when the recession began in March 2000, and trace it through the latest update of the Federal Reserve’s Index of Manufacturing Output — which showcases the highest manufacturing production in U.S. history — the line graph forms an unmistakable “W.”

Risky affairs

We wrote last month that the Pentagon was advertising for an “aggressive” Washington-area public relations firm to initiate outreach to Iraqi citizens who’ve grown disgruntled over the war.

In that the highly risky PR tasks would include outreach to warring segments of Iraqi society — including Kurds, Sunnis, Shia, and former Iraqi military — the unusual government contract went so far as to spell out “the remains of PR people will be handled the same as U.S. soldiers, and shipped to Kuwait,” said Jack O’Dwyer, who monitors public relations firms in Washington.

“The PR firm must coordinate the movement of the remains back to the U.S., and is responsible for notification of next of kin,” the contract states.

Despite the dangers, a PR firm has stepped up to the plate.

“A Washington, D.C.-based entity called Iraqex got the contract,” Kevin McCauley, editor of odwyerpr.com, tells Inside the Beltway. “Iraqex says it is wired into the Iraqi media, claiming contacts with 300 to 400 reporters.

“The contract is a blockbuster — in terms of dollars — for PR,” he adds. “It is worth $5.5 million for the first year and totals $17.7 million with the three six-month option periods. Those are big numbers, even if one is operating in a war zone.”

For his end of the bargain, Uncle Sam will provide office space, supplies and e-mail service, along with living space, health care and dining facilities for the firm’s employees while in Iraq.

Tale of two brothers

Last night’s debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina might not affect the way you vote, but the office of the vice president of the United States has certainly come a long way since Woodrow Wilson’s running mate, Thomas R. Marshall, recalled:

“Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again.”

Memorable lines

Now that Vice President Dick Cheney and his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Edwards, have hung up their boxing gloves, we’ll have to wait another four years for the next vice presidential debate — although, unlike our forebears, at least we get to hear from the lesser half of a presidential campaign.

History reveals the first vice presidential debate didn’t take place until 1976, when Walter Mondale, running mate of Jimmy Carter, went head-to-head with Bob Dole, who wound up on the losing end with President Ford.

Eight years later, the importance of allowing running mates to square off in a formal debate was realized when then-Sen. Dan Quayle, who became vice president under George H.W. Bush, took on then-Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Michael S. Dukakis’ No. 2 pick.

“I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency,” Mr. Quayle noted at one point during the dialogue.

To which his opponent so memorably countered: “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

(In retrospect, Mr. Quayle’s remark wasn’t nearly as bad as when Mr. Bush observed of his newly chosen running mate: “We have had triumphs, we have made mistakes, we have had sex. Um, make that ‘setbacks,’” corrected the red-faced Mr. Bush).

The most memorable lines in the 1992 vice-presidential debate were rhetorical questions posed by candidate retired Adm. James Bond Stockdale, who, while going up against opponents Mr. Quayle and then-Sen. Al Gore, helped diminish whatever chances H. Ross Perot had of becoming president:

“Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Mr. Stockdale asked, without ever really providing the answers.

Fans of this column will enjoy John McCaslin’s new book, “Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans From Around the Nation’s Capital.” Mr. McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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