Who’s Who

Who’s Who

Susan Threadgill

Ben Barnes, the former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, is the man who recommended George W. Bush for a hard-to-get slot in the Vietnam-era Texas Air National Guard. Barnes has said, and the Bush camp has duly emphasized, that neither Bush’s father “nor any other member of the Bush family” asked for the favor. But Barnes added, according to The Washington Post’s George Lardner, that “he was contacted by Sid Adger, a wealthy Houston businessman and a good friend of the senior Bush.”

For publishers who want to acquire Bill Clinton’s first post-presidency book, the man to see is Robert Barnett. Although Barnett’s wife is better known to the public–she’s CBS correspondent Rita Braver–he’s a bigfoot Washington lawyer who doubles as a literary agent for prominent political figures.

Democrats are happy to hear that Christine Todd Whitman won’t be running against their nominee for the New Jersey Senate seat that Frank Lautenberg is vacating next year. But Republicans are consoled, according to The Washington Post’s David Broder, by the news that their chance of capturing the seat Senator Richard Bryan is leaving are increased by the news that the popular Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa has decided not to run. (The Democrats` first choice, former Governor Bob Miller, had already declined the honor.) Republican prospects in Nevada are further enhanced by the fact that he leading candidate for this nomination is former Congressman John Ensign, who came within a whisker of beating Senator Harry Reid a year ago.

The Navy doesn’t want a miniature aircraft carrier called the LHD-8. But Trent Lott does. He’s the Senate majority leader, so the Senate voted $500 million to get the project started. House aides asked the Navy how much was needed. $295 million, it replied. When a Lott senior staffer found out, according to Tim Weiner of The New York Times, he faxed a handwritten memo to the Pentagon. It said that $295 million was the “wrong answer.” The answer he said that “the Navy needs to support” was “$375 million to $500 million.” At last report, the Navy was sticking to its guns. But local cynics predict that the majority leader will get his way.

Is Janet Reno corrupt, as a good many columnists and editorial writers suggest? Not according to sources who tell us that although she can be a trifle obtuse at times, she’s clean. She was also innocent in the ways of Washington and could be conned, as she was by the FBI when it convinced her that children were being sexually abused inside David Koresh’s Waco compound.

We were reminded of that episode by a recent column by Lars Erik-Nelson in The New York Daily News. He points out that the FBI has been guilty of some other whoppers, including lying about the tear gas grenades at Waco and telling Monica Lewinsky that she could be imprisoned for 27 years unless she played ball. Nelson finds it a bit ironic that it was an FBI with this record that insisted on prosecuting Henry Cisneros for fibbing about the amount of money he gave his mistress.

Speaking of senators who don’t hesitate to flex their muscle, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning has been holding up the nomination of Arthur Money to be assistant secretary of defense. Why? Does the nominee have some defect of char acter or are his policy views beyond the pale? Not exactly. Bunning wants to force the Pentagon to retrofit its safes with a kind of lock made, you guessed it, in Kentucky.

Here’s the story behind John McLaughlin’s breakup with Jack Germond, as told in Germond’s new book, Fat Man in the Middle Seat. At the 1996 Republican national convention, General Electric held a lunch at which the group appeared, and McLaughlin announced that GE was going to underwrite international distribution of the program. Asked by McLaughlin to comment on the momentous tidings, Germond said “we could take credit for dumbing down the whole world.”

For those on the Hill who want to make overtures to George W. Bush, the men to see are Paul Coverdell in the Senate and Roy Blunt in the House.

Lois Romano’s Washington Post article, from which we extracted that tidbit, was mostly about how George W. shuns his father’s former aides. It seems they, who knew him from the `88 and ’92 campaigns and as an unofficial White House trouble-shooter, don’t think very highly of him either. “Virtually everyone interviewed for this story said they never expected to be talking about him as a presidential candidate.” He was known, they added, “for having little or no interest in policy, for being confrontational and rarely wearing a suit, and for spitting tobacco in waste cans.” Bush supporters are encouraged to chew on this a little bit.

Before Terry McAuliffe came through with his guarantee of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s home loan, three well-heeled friends of the First Family had stiffed them. The non-friends-in-need include former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former White House chiefs of staff Thomas F. McLarty and Erskine Bowles. Bowles had agreed to do it but then backed out the week before the loan was closed. As they say, it’s lonely at the top.

Two Republican presidential candidates hope that it is not a case of rats deserting a sinking ship, but there have been some embarrassing defections lately. For Gary Bauer, it was his national campaign chairman who left to join the Steve Forbes campaign. For Elizabeth Dole, it was first Ari Fleischer, her communications director, and then Mike Paranzino, her press secretary. She, at least, has one consolation–they didn’t scramble to another candidate.

The U.S. Senate is the home of the nation’s dimmer bulbs, according to Elizabeth Drew’s new book, The Corruption of American Politics. Max Cleland of Georgia is “out of his depth.” Don Nickles of Oklahoma is “none too bright,” Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is “unburdened by brilliance,” and Hawaii’s Daniel K. Akaka is “a room-emptier because of the thinness of his thought.”

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