Iowa is a hazardous place

Iowa is a hazardous place

The Des Moines Register's David Yepsen took a year-ahead look at the 2000 Iowa caucuses and came up with this conclusion: For Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the caucuses "are shaping up as a hazardous place where either could fall victim" to the expectations game.

Republican Bush "has yet to set foot" in Iowa to campaign-and it's a place where caucus participants "reward candidates who do one-on-one campaigning, talking about the country's problems." So far, according to Yepsen, Bush has "avoided detailed policy statements. While he's picking up some big-name endorsements, those rarely deliver anything to a recipient in Iowa because the state does not have machine politics. Caucus voters tend to make up their own minds." Look for Bush in Iowa after June, when the Texas Legislature goes home.

On the Democratic side, the Iowa "territory is especially treacherous" for Gore. While Gore "has worked hard over the years to court friends" in Iowa, Yepsen notes, the "security retinue he must carry along makes it nearly impossible for him" to do one-on-one retail work. By contrast, ex-Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey "is bouncing around Iowa in a van doing coffees and rallying anybody who has a beef with Gore, including a number of party liberals who find Gore too centrist." For Gore, failure to win Iowa "comfortably . . . will show his vulnerabilities." (Des Moines Register, 3/21)

But before next year's chase for Iowa's caucus voters, we have to get through this year's money chase. Federal Election Commission reports are due on April 15, and presidential campaigns soon will be spinning themselves silly with numbers.

Some spin is already getting out. Thomas M. DeFrank and Timothy J. Burger of the New York Daily News reported that some key Gore aides "privately are nervous about what the numbers may show." Gore "has tapped into" President Clinton's fund-raising "juggernaut, and is widely assumed to be able to raise campaign cash at will." But some Gore-backers "worry" that Bradley's first-quarter 1999 numbers "could be surprisingly strong. If they're too close to Gore's totals, Gore's friends say, that will be read as a psychological setback" for Gore. (New York Daily News, 3/21)

'Space Force' Smith

Do you have a hankering for a fifth branch of the military? Sen. Robert C. Smith, R-N.H., does-and he wants it in outer space. The presidential candidate said during a hearing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado that a "Space Force" could "boost the military importance of outer space while letting the Air Force concentrate on what it does best, air warfare."

Smith, who chairs the Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which oversees space funding, said: "This isn't a criticism of the Air Force. We still need an Air Force. But the vision of space power must go further."

But the Air Force opposes a separate Space Force, and, "no one in Congress has proposed it formally." Gen. Richard Myers, commander of the U.S. Space Command, Air Force Space Command, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said, "I don't see any advantage to that right now." Myers said a separate branch "would duplicate costs" and suggested that the Air Force could avoid conflict and accomplish Smith's goals by doubling the Space Command's current budget of about $7 billion a year. (Colorado Springs Gazette, 3/23)

All in the Family

Of the five races for open Senate seats, the ones in New York and New Jersey are getting most of the attention. But what about the barn burner developing in Rhode Island? The race to replace retiring Republican Sen. John H. Chafee is considered a toss-up-and one of the more bizarre scenarios for filling that seat was put into play this week.

The Providence Journal-Bulletin's "Political Scene" column offered this "far-out rumor": Chafee "will fall ill this summer and will be unable to serve," allowing Republican Gov. Lincoln Almond to appoint someone to finish the Senator's term. "That someone, according to this rumor, will be" Warwick Mayor Lincoln D. Chafee, who has already announced his candidacy for his father's seat. Sen. Chafee's spokesman, Nicholas Graham, saw great humor in the rumor: "Since it's Academy Awards time, let me put it like this: Any such claim about Sen. Chafee is clearly an attempt to secure an Oscar this year for Best Fiction Screenplay." Graham said the real scenario is this: "Sen. Chafee plans to complete his term; the Democratic primary is going to have all the calmness of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange; and Mayor Lincoln Chafee should start renting Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." (Providence Journal-Bulletin, 3/22)

Rogan's Run

Democratic California state Sen. Adam Schiff will soon announce a run for the seat held by Republican Rep. James Rogan, whose "vocal role as prosecutor" in President Clinton's impeachment trial "gave him national recognition but angered many constituents." National Democratic officials "have repeatedly stated that one of their priorities for 2000 is ousting" Rogan from the 27th Congressional District, a former GOP "bastion that has been undergoing major demographic changes." State Democratic officials also "have piled on, painting Rogan as target No. 1, a right-wing extremist whose zealous attacks" on Clinton during the trial "showed he is out of step with voters." For his part, Rogan is considering a run next year for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. (Los Angeles Times, 3/23)

Monica, the Scene-Stealer

Politics, as always, rudely intruded into the 71st annual Academy Awards.

TV Guide's Matt Roush, on Oscars host Whoopi Goldberg's political humor: "It wasn't the best material. And you'd kind of think on the night that belongs to Hollywood, you could get over Washington for a night. It also smacked of that left-wing, liberal Hollywood thing that you'd think they would try to put a little to the side for the Oscars." (MSNBC, 3/22)

Get over Washington for a night? Ha! Tell that to the folks who put on Vanity Fair's Oscars party, attended by bi-coastal scene-stealer Monica Lewinsky. Daily Variety's Bill Higgins described the party this way: "There was something about Monica that turned every head in the room when she arrived at Morton's a half-hour late. ... Wearing a low-cut, floor-length black gown with a glittery wrap, Monica Lewinsky was greeted by Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter, then swept through the room to a table, where she was seated with Neve Campbell, Ellen Barkin, and Bryan Lourd." Higgins noted, "Until the world's best-known intern arrived, the tone of the party was far more L.A. than Washington." (Daily Variety, 3/22)

Former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, who now writes for Vanity Fair, attended her mag's party, and told CNBC's Marcia Clark: "I did have a chance to say hello to Monica Lewinsky. I never met her before, we didn't overlap while we were in the White House, and she's exactly as she appears. She's a very sweet and vulnerable person. I think she was a little overwhelmed by all the attention that she drew last night. She was the hottest celebrity at the party." (Rivera Live, CNBC, 3/22)

By the way, songwriter Bruce Roberts told New York Daily News gossipers George Rush and Joanna Molloy that Lewinsky "has been knocking around the idea of become a recording artist." Roberts, asked whether he might write her a tune: "If it were right and she could sing it, sure. If she couldn't, it wouldn't make sense for either of us. She is interested in singing, but she's still figuring out where she goes from here." (Daily News, 3/23)

Ventura Boulevard

Even Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura got in on the Hollywood act. As a presenter at the pre-Oscars Independent Spirit Awards, Ventura shared the stage with almost two-dozen celebrities, according to the Los Angeles Times' Jean Merl. Among them: Alec Baldwin, Lynn Redgrave, and "iconoclastic" filmmaker John Waters.

But Ventura "had no trouble standing out amid such luminaries." Ventura was in Los Angeles for three days to try to lure more movie industry dollars to Minnesota. He met with Paramount film and television executives, lunched with Disney "bigwigs," and attended a private reception for "100 film industry leaders." Ventura, on the movie moguls he was wooing: "In this business, it's out of sight, out of mind, and we want to be in their minds." (Los Angeles Times, 3/21)

As for Oscars night, Ventura was spotted at Pagani, where Elton John and InStyle magazine were throwing a fund-raiser for the singer's AIDS foundation. InStyle Editor Martha Nelson "had a prime seat" between Time Warner Inc. "topper" Gerald M. Levin and Ventura. When asked how he'd do in a wrestling match with Lewinsky, Ventura said, "I've been retired for 12 years. I think she'd have the edge." (Daily Variety, 3/22)