Washington Prowler

Idealists and Opportunists

You decide which statesmen and politicians belong under which category. Bill Clinton, for example. Or Paul Wolfowitz. Plus Nancy Pelosi and Katherine Harris.

By 2.5.02

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IRAQ RAT-A-TAT
Word from the Pentagon is that Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Bush Doctrine against terror, has again lost out in his battle to get the administration to zero in on Iraq. "The impression we have is that President Bush wants to look elsewhere," says a senior member of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's staff. "Wolfie still has Rumsfeld's ear and Bush still considers his advice. But his continued focus on Iraq has diminished his voice in the White House."

NANCY GETS FANCY
Not everyone who attended the House Democrats' retreat in Pennsylvania last week is applauding minority whip Nancy Pelosi for her presentation on "customizing campaign messages."

"Basically she told us how to lie to our constituents at election time," says a conservative Democratic House member who attended the session. "It's easy for her, she comes from the goofiest district in America [San Francisco and parts of Marin County]. Some of us actually have to answer for our campaign promises."

Pelosi's remarks were pegged to a controversial survey commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which showed Democrats badly behind in some of the most highly contested congressional districts for the 2002 election. "Worst case scenario?" says a Democratic staffer who attended the briefing on the survey. "Republicans gain enough seats to ensure control of the House for the next decade. It's that bad."

Pelosi's solution, and that of several political consultants at the retreat: run for election or re-election as a Republican. Pelosi is said to have pointed to the example of Mark Warner, who won the Virginia governor's race by recasting himself as a pro-gun, pro-smaller government conservative. "She told us many Democrats will be running away from the national party, its issues, and its leaders in order to win," says the staffer. "I guess if that is what it takes, so be it. But it's a lousy way to run."

No one, at least who's a Democrat and who attended the retreat, believes it will be that bad. "We're not going to win back the House if things hold the way they are," says the conservative Democratic congressman. "But you never know. One smoking-gun memo from the Enron investigation that nail Bush and DeLay to the wall, and suddenly we're looking pretty good in those contested districts."

LOOKING PRETTY GOOD
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has promised the Republican National Committee a war chest of more than $1 million as she revs up her campaign to win the House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Dan Miller. Harris, though, probably won't need all that money to win in a district that is 60 percent Republican. So part of her cache will go to help fellow Republicans in the state, and perhaps beyond. "She's a great fundraiser and has been doing it across the country. People love her," says a current RNC fundraiser. "If she can help us, she will. Her election is looking pretty good right now."

THERE HE GOES AGAIN
"Clinton has screwed us," says an AFL-CIO lobbyist. "Big Time." He is speaking of Bill Clinton's failure to hire any union help in the construction of his big library/retreat outside Little Rock. "Not a single contract, not a single hire, not a single minority contractor," says the AFL-CIO staffer. "We're talking perhaps $100 million in union pay for that project and Clinton and his cronies are just doling it out to local friends. It's really irksome because we were one of the first groups to pony up dough to the library."

Some unions estimate that they gave the Clinton library more than $2 million in donations. "We expected something in return, like some jobs for our union brothers and sisters," says a local member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which was lobbying for work at the library. "Instead we got a cold shoulder. I guess we'll never learn."

In all, the budget for the Clinton Library stands at about $200 million. That includes the library, living quarters for Clinton and his guests on the grounds, and what has been dubbed "Camp Clinton," a re-creation of Camp David in the hills that surround the library. There, it is said, Clinton will have a retreat and will sponsor conferences and host visiting foreign dignitaries.

"The president is hoping that he can host a peace conference there some time in 2003 or 2004 between Israel and the Palestinians," says a library insider who has fundraised for the project. "He has told donors that he's haunted by his failure to bring peace to the region and he believes his efforts are still part of his legacy."

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