Washington Prowler

Big Talkers

From Clinton on down, the bigger the talk, the smaller the man (and woman).

By 9.16.02

QUICK FINISHER
On September 11's "Late Night with David Letterman," former President Bill Clinton declared that if the U.S. went after Iraq, it would take no more than three weeks for the whole operation, from two weeks of bombing to one week of ground operations.

In fact, during his own time in the White House, Clinton was told by his military advisers that an Iraq operation would take far longer from start to finish. "It might be that the actual heavy bombing and military action could take three weeks, but we're talking about being in Iraq, possibly fighting skirmishes for several months," says a former Clinton staffer. "He knows it would take longer than three weeks."

So why be so misleading?

"If he says he could have done it in three weeks, and it takes longer, he makes the Bush people look bad. We've reached that level of pettiness. Also, the Democrats on the campaign trail down the road can say, 'See, Bush I did it in a month, Clinton could have done it in a month. Bush II can't get it right.'"

THE BIG SULK
So much for leadership: Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, who lost the Republican primary to Rep. John Sununu, told voters on the campaign trail that he was only concerned with doing what was best for voters in the Granite State.

So of course, when it came time for the GOP to hold its Unity Breakfast last Thursday, Smith, who is said to be devastated by his loss, took a pass on attending, instead telling the state party he had to be Washington for important Senate votes.

One problem: Smith didn't make any of the three roll call votes that were held that day. It couldn't have been simply about travel time. Republican Sen. Judd Gregg ate breakfast in union with the state GOP brethren and still made it back to the Beltway in time to cast two votes.

Republicans in New Hampshire took the slight as a sign that Smith intends to be trouble in the fall election, perhaps even campaigning against Sununu.

LONG GONE
Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who lost in the Democratic primary to more moderate former judge Denise Majette, is saying she will tell her supporters to "sit out" the November elections in order to make life more difficult for Majette. The two didn't like each other before the primary race, and now that Majette got more Republican votes than the Republicans running in her district, she's even more reviled by McKinney.

So could Republicans actually have a shot at picking up this seat in November if McKinney's people create enough of a void among Democratic voters? Probably not. The Republican nominee is Cynthia Van Auken, 56, a homemaker and small business owner. In her runoff, she garnered 1,292 votes, compared to 816 for competitor. Those numbers were so low because Republicans who crossed over to vote Democratic in the primary were barred from voting the Republican runoff.

"There's a chance that Van Auken has a better shot at pulling off an upset," says a Georgia GOP political strategist. "But McKinney is a joke now. Voters in her district aren't going to listen to her en masse. The only people who might sit it out are the far left fringe of the Democratic Party. The Congressional Black Caucus better start getting to know Majette."

LOOPY LEAHY
So, apparently Sen. Patrick Leahy is a closet conspiratorial conservative. On Friday, Leahy called for an investigation into whether the spread of the West Nile virus could be the result of a terrorist attack. "We were wondering where he could have gotten such a hare-brained scheme," says a Democratic staffer in the Senate. "That's very unlike Leahy."

Unlike him? How, then, do they explain those hair-brained schemes Leahy dreams up for Bush judicial nominees? But we digress. What happened is that Leahy was probably surfing the net and came across several right-wing conspiracy-happy sites that are actually putting out the West Nile as terrorism story. Seems back in the late 1990s, a man developed West Nile in New York on the Upper East Side. And what else is on the Upper East Side? The United Nations. And who works at the U.N.? Why, Iraqis. See? It all makes sense.

What will Leahy buy into next?

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