Major League Exit
President Bush and Vice President Cheney can breathe a bit easier about at least one part of the upcoming 2004 presidential campaign: Pesky New York Times scribe Adam Clymer won’t be shadowing them on the trail.
Clymer, who was given a crude nickname by Bush during the 2000 campaign, confirmed to HOH that he’s planning to retire at the end of June.
“I’m not retiring because George Bush called me a name,” the reporter said last week with a soft chuckle.
Clymer said it’s time to move on to something else after 26 years as a Times man and 43 years in journalism, dating back to his start with the Virginian-Pilot and stints with the Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News.
He’s covered every presidential campaign since 1972, with that particular race landing him a cameo in the classic book “The Boys on the Bus.” Author Timothy Crouse described Clymer as a “priggish, pear-shaped reporter” who “communicated most easily by griping.”
Indeed, despite his many accomplishments covering Congressional and presidential campaigns as well as Capitol Hill over the years, Clymer will also be remembered for his legendary abrasiveness. (There were dust-ups with everyone from a Capitol Police officer a couple of years ago to a TV cameraman who had beaten Clymer to a seat at a 1994 press conference.)
But it was the expletive uttered by Bush during the 2000 campaign that cinched Clymer’s spot in presidential trivia. An open microphone caught candidate Bush whispering to Cheney that Clymer was a “major-league asshole.”
“Big time,” intoned Cheney.
These days, Clymer waxes philosophical about the incident. “You know, candidates get mad at reporters,” he said. “It’s all part of the game. I wrote something that he didn’t like.
“If we wanted all of our customers to love us,” he added, “we’d drive Good Humor trucks.”
Clymer is looking forward to staying close to the campaign by taking a position at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He will be helping with the legwork for an ongoing, 16-month poll (involving 300 interviews per night) to keep a running cross-section of the nation’s electorate.
He has some simple advice for Washington reporters. “Get out into the country as much as you can,” said Clymer. “I really liked covering House campaigns more than anything else. They’re smaller and you get a sense of the differences in the different parts of the country. We’re not all homogenized — yet.”
Ode to “Baghdad Bob.” Despite reports of the untimely demise of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, it seems that the former Iraqi propaganda chief may be working under an alias for the presidential campaign of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).
Jano Cabrera, Lieberman’s “press secretary” for the campaign, was issued business cards last week that officially describe him as the Senator’s “Minister of Information.”
Cabrera, who toiled for the presidential campaign of Al Gore and veep candidate Lieberman in 2000, had a ready response for the gag perpetrated by his new colleagues that sounded awfully similar to the random musings of the beloved “Baghdad Bob” during the war.
“My cards are not the issue,” Cabrera told HOH. “What matters is that thanks to Al Gore and Joe Lieberman’s stunning and overwhelming victory in 2000 there are no Republicans in this city. In fact, there are no Republicans within 100 miles of Washington, D.C.!”
Cabrera’s partner in crime from the Gore press shop, Philippe Reines, wasn’t shocked by his friend’s new job description.
“Hardly surprising,” said Reines, now the mouthpiece for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). “This is the same aggressor who stages invasions into my apartment, loots Snapples from my fridge and then later claims that he was merely liberating them.”
Boy George. He may not be the most popular man in the White House these days, but Sen. George Voinovich (R) was dubbed the “Sexiest Man in Washington” by an Ohio newspaper last week.
The Other Paper, a free news and entertainment weekly based in Columbus, poked a bit of fun at the media for going gaga for Voinovich. It noted that the Senator’s refusal to support a tax cut larger than $350 billion has made him a maverick à la Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“All this has transformed Voinovich, for the time being, from a nondescript, mainstream conservative Republican Senator into the sexiest man in Washington,” said the paper. “He’s a deficit hawk. He’s fiscally responsible. He’s a maverick. It won’t be long before the press begins to speculate that this man is of presidential timber.”
The paper added of a certain Independent Senator from Vermont: “The trouble is, fame is fleeting in the nation’s capital. Remember when Jim Jeffords was all the rage? The guy can’t even get quoted these days.”
One difference, though, might be that Voinovich is not quite as bland as Jeffords. In fact, this man practices what he preaches when it comes to fiscal discipline.
Right before his inaugural ball as governor in 1991, Voinovich reached into a urinal to pick out a penny. He rinsed the coin and slipped it into his pocket.
“It was money,” an aide explained to HOH in 1999, when Voinovich was a freshman Senator. “He’s frugal.”
That’s one way to put it.
Bond, Kit Bond. There was no rest over recess for the staff of Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), who had hip replacement surgery.
Three days after the April 18 operation, Bond was in his Capitol hideaway working away. That just about put the kibosh on Internet surfing and long lunches — the usual recess agenda for many Hill aides — for the Bond staff.
“For a guy who just had surgery on his hip, Kit has not missed a step,” said spokesman Ernie Blazar.
Looks Like Snow. After five months of staying home full-time with her newborn son, CNN’s Kate Snow will be returning to the Congressional beat this week.
“He’s mostly sleeping through the night now — thank God,” Snow said of little Zachary.
She was still doing live stand-ups for CNN hours before the birth. During her time away from work, Snow tried not to stay too plugged in to what was happening on the Hill — with mixed success.
“I remember we turned on ‘Inside Politics’ in the labor room,” she told HOH with a laugh. “I saw Jon Karl do a live shot.”
The next morning, with the new boy in tow, Snow again had the tube tuned to the network in her hospital room. “My husband said, ‘OK, you’ve got to chill out with the CNN’” dosages.
She also tried to keep up on the simmering rivalry between CNN and Fox News Channel. “I have channel surfed a little and watched the competition. That’s been interesting,” she said, politely refusing to elaborate.
Inaugural Address. Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), freshly minted as chairman of GOPAC, will make his first formal speech to the Republican group at 7:30 p.m. tonight as the keynote speaker for the Chairman’s Dinner.
The subject of the speech, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on 22nd Street Northwest, will be “Growing the Republican Majority” and will provide Watts’ thoughts on broadening the makeup of the party.
“My goal is to take GOPAC back to its roots,” Watts told HOH on Friday, saying that he will focus on grassroots “mobilization” on the state and local level. He believes that Republicans got spoiled in the 1980s after growing used to the superior communications skills of former President Ronald Reagan.
“I think you tend to get fat and sassy,” he said of the dependence on Reagan, comparing it to the Democratic dependence on former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
“We thought we could win elections with just radio and TV ads,” he said. “You need a ground campaign to support your air campaign. We saw that in Iraq.”
Watts will also officially reveal this week that he has tapped Robb Kakritz to serve as deputy chairman of GOPAC. Kakritz, who worked on the Bush campaign in 2000, has most recently been serving as a senior adviser at the Treasury Department.
Ben Pershing contributed to this report.