Sunday, January 25, 2004

Unlikely leader

Last month, a Republican lawyer in Mississippi who previously lived here in Washington, infiltrated a Howard Dean for President “meet-up” in Jackson. He took charge of more than the meeting.

“I’m basically now head of Central Mississippians for Dean,” J. Kevin Broughton tells Inside the Beltway.

The handful of Dean supporters on hand included a political consultant who was state chairman of Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign, a retired Army colonel, a local broadcaster and a pair of middle-aged women.

Honest lawyer he is, and feeling a bit guilty, Mr. Broughton decided to come clean.

“I disclosed that I was a Republican, interested in seeing Dean take Mississippi’s delegates and win the nomination. I had to take charge of the meeting,” he explains. “They were all talking about how [President] Bush lied about WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] and how sick it was that Arnold [Schwarzenegger] got elected [governor] in California.

“‘Listen,’ I said, ‘it’ll be a four-man race at most by Super Tuesday. Dean will be one … [but] we’ll have an incredibly low turnout. We need 25 percent of the black vote, and that will get us the 30 [percent] to 32 percent plurality that will take the delegates.’

“Blank stares,” Mr. Broughton recalls. “I’m trying to walk them through the mechanics of winning a primary. ‘Look, let’s divide up the counties in the middle third of Mississippi. Each of us can contact the Democrat county chairs, and get the voter and donor lists.’

“The retired colonel said, ‘Kevin, tell us what it is that has disaffected you with the current administration.’

“‘Not a darn thing,’ I said, finally getting through. ‘My motivation may be different than yours, but our goal is the same, at least until next summer. Your guy can’t be president if he doesn’t win the nomination. I want him to get the nomination.’”

Wouldn’t you know, Mr. Broughton was crowned chairman of the Dean club. They meet again next week.

Arnold’s rep

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’s appointed Stacy Carlson as director of his Washington office, to work with Congress and the Bush White House “to promote sound federal policy and increased funding for California.”

Miss Carlson most recently was senior adviser for public law and policy at the Washington firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. Before that she was a senior member of President Bush’s presidential campaign.

One last rose

Michael K. Deaver, who authored the book “A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan,” will soon have a new book out titled, “Nancy: An Intimate Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan.”

“Alzheimer’s has given Nancy the last — and painfully long — good-bye,” observes the former longtime Reagan aide, writing that Mrs. Reagan wanted him to include as much about the disease in the book as he could so people understand the struggles of Alzheimer’s families.

Unlike other books written about the Reagans’ twilight years, Mr. Deaver becomes the first to disclose how Mrs. Reagan, accompanied by then-Reagan aide Fred Ryan, confronted the former president about the illness they suspected was slowly engulfing him.

Mrs. Reagan, he writes, was — and perhaps continues to be — the source of her husband’s happiness, “the one who made him such a perfectly contented man.”

“For all any of us can really know, she might still be.”

Recently, Mr. Deaver and Mrs. Reagan held one of their regular lunches, during which she told a story passed along to her only a year ago by an agent on Mr. Reagan’s Secret Service detail. The year was 1999, and the Secret Service agent had asked Mr. Reagan if he would like to take a walk.

“As they walked alone down Beverly Boulevard in Beverly Hills, Reagan seemed quieter than usual,” he writes. “Before long, he stopped in front of a quaint blue house surrounded by a white picket fence. Beyond it, a rose garden graced the facade of the little bungalow.

“Reagan paused, then reached over the small gate, trying to lift the latch to gain entry. As he did so, the agent gently touched him on the hand with a warm admonishment. ‘We can’t go in there, Mr. President; it isn’t our house.’

“Reagan paused for a second before pulling his hand back from the latch. ‘I know,’ he said quietly, ‘but I just wanted to pick a rose for my love.’

“Nancy’s eyes welled up telling me the story. So did mine.”

How rude

No sooner did President Bush detail his vision for space travel, including a manned Mars mission, and the GOP Shoppe produced a button with a picture of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the words: “Why Can’t We Send a Woman to Mars!”

• John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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