Washington Prowler

Friends

Kerry’s "surprise" reunion. Jimmy Carter rolled by Bill Clinton. Dennis Kucinich’s sudden popularity.

By 1.19.04

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IOWA SURPRISE
If Sen. John Kerry fails in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, he always has a future in Hollywood, to judge by his performance over the weekend in Iowa. In that time Kerry belittled President Bush for his landing on an aircraft carrier while himself spending time flying about Iowa in a helicopter, taking control on occasion in front of reporters along for the ride and then feigning ignorance when asked if he wasn't doing exactly what Bush had been doing.

Then there is the mysterious case of his old Vietnam buddy Jim Rassmann, who flew into Iowa on Friday to greet Kerry warmly. Rassmann, you'll recall, was in Vietnam with Kerry and was rescued by the future Massachusetts senator after coming under heavy enemy gunfire. The men had not seen each other since that fateful day.

Rassmann told reporters in Iowa that he had contacted the Kerry campaign days before and said he was looking to speak to his rescuer. The campaign, knowing a good story when it saw it, flew the vet back to Iowa. When Kerry saw Rassmann during a rally, he approached his old chum, who was conveniently standing with a group of cameramen and reporters. Kerry claimed utter surprise at seeing Rassmann standing there, and the men warmly embraced. Yet Kerry had been tipped off to Rassmann's presence and arrival in Iowa a day before if not two days.

"It was a wonderful moving moment," says a Kerry volunteer. "We were briefed on it before the event, and told to steer cameras to a certain area. Reporters knew about it in advance, and so did Senator Kerry. We don't leave anything like this to chance."

Yet throughout the day, as the two men campaigned together, Kerry continued to act as if he'd known nothing about the planned reunion.

FRIENDLY PERSUASION
Former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean traveled to Georgia on Sunday thinking he was getting an endorsement from Jimmy Carter. Instead, Dean got a lesson in humility from a man not known for possessing much of it.

Late last week Dean's staff had been spinning the press in Iowa that a trip to Georgia one day before the caucuses was worth it, especially if it meant getting support from a former Democratic president.

Dean arrived to a warm welcome, some kind words from Carter, and news that the former president had told reporters that he had never extended an invitation to Dean and that the northerner had simply invited himself.

"Governor Dean shows up and everything we thought was planned was now off," says a Dean adviser in New Hampshire. "No endorsement, nothing. It was like we got shivved in the back."

It got worse. Carter also told reporters that he had extended an invitation to Dean's competitor Wesley Clark to come down to spend time with him. It is unclear when Dean's planned coronation by the peanut farmer got crushed, but a Clark staffer in Washington claimed that on Thursday, when word was leaking out about the Dean visit, both Clark and "a very senior friend to the general" made calls to Carter.

Who was the "friend"?

"Let's just say he held the same job as Carter did, but was more successful," says the Clark staffer. "The calls were made to the former president to encourage him not to jump the gun on any endorsements at such a critical time in the campaign. Apparently, President Carter agreed with that assessment."

DENNIS IN DEMAND
As the Dean team in Iowa was scrambling on Monday night to shore up support in caucuses around the state, including locking in potential supporters of Carol Moseley Braun, they were also reaching out to back-of-the-pack candidate Dennis Kucinich.

The Iowa rumor mill had been abuzz on Sunday and Monday about a deal between Kucinich and John Edwards' camp that essentially gave Edwards Kucinich's supporters in caucus locales where they were needed to bump Edwards up to the necessary 15 percent threshold to receive delegates.

Dean's people, playing up the candidate's antiwar position, were attempting to swing a similar deal with Kucinich but with a sweeter pot than Edwards could offer -- future roles for the congressman in a Dean general election and administration.

Kucinich's folks were apparently cool to the idea, because as of two hours prior to the start of the caucuses, Edwards and Kucinich staffers were still talking.

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