To divine whether Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is running for president, look no further than his garage. Kerry recently swapped his Italian-made Ducati racing motorcycle for an all-American Harley-Davidson. While it might help his populist appeal, motorcycling pols rarely find hog heaven: According to the company, no U.S. president has ever ridden a Harley-Davidson. Two weeks before the 2000 election, Al Gore appeared on the “Queen Latifah Show,” to announce that as a youngster, he and Tipper were leather-clad motorcycle fanatics. His running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), visited the Kansas City, Mo., Harley factory during the campaign, where staffers tried unsuccessfully to prevent a Michael Dukakis-riding-in-a-tank-style photo-op with the diminutive Democrat astride a chopper. (Lieberman not only posed, he let a factory worker take him for a spin.) Even Jimmy Carter, a onetime motorcycle buff, didn’t last long in the White House. Republican bikers are few. In fact, the lone rider we know of was once a Dem: Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Capitol Hill’s best-known biker. Campbell favors a Harley decked out in stars and stripes, and was inducted into the National Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame last year. But the road hasn’t been kind to him either: He fractured his right arm in a 1996 spill.
Even Republicans are tiring of Republican attack ads. In the hard-fought battle for the Senate, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is understandably miffed at ads attacking him which are funded by Stephen Moore, president of the arch-conservative Club for Growth. But so is Johnson’s opponent, Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.). Thune issued a “personal plea” for Moore to “stay out of their race for the Senate.” Perhaps that’s because the ads are really intended to smear Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), an association with whom Republicans believe will hurt Johnson. An exasperated Thune spokesperson, Christine Iverson, recently reiterated that the campaign “isn’t interested in Moore’s help.”
Army Secretary Thomas E. White has had more comebacks than the ’69 Mets. The latest involves the Crusader mobile artillery system, which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld targeted for elimination, only to have anonymous Army officials–many suspect White–launch a stealth lobbying campaign through congressional supporters like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) to save it. Considering who is seeking to build the Crusader, Rumsfeld’s move is quite brave. The House Armed Services Committee recently approved $475 million in funding for the weapons system, which will be directed to a subsidiary of The Carlyle Group, an investment firm whose senior staff includes George H.W. Bush, James Baker, and Frank Carlucci, defense secretary under Ronald Reagan. Like White, the Crusader could be primed for a comeback. Ask Peter Jennings, whose ABC News has launched a “Crusader Watch.”
It’s not exactly The Carlyle Group, but the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is looking to add some muscle to its Washington lobbying effort. NORML recently enrolled entertainment celebrities Willie Nelson, Robert Altman, and Bill Maher. One celeb they didn’t get was New York City’s Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom the group smoked out in an April ad campaign for admitting that he’d used–and enjoyed–marijuana.
The talk radio program of Kathleen Willey–who made waves several years ago by alleging that Bill Clinton had groped her–had a shorter life than most Clinton scandals. WRVA-AM in Richmond, Va., canceled it after just four episodes, despite a guest list that included such luminaries as pollster Dick Morris and independent counsel Kenneth Starr. The station opted to get its right-wing claptrap the old-fashioned way, by airing Dr. Laura. Also joining the talk-radio airwaves, in Los Angeles, is former George W. Bush speechwriter David “Axis of Evil” Frum.
What does the Washington press corps think of CNN’s summary (and inexplicable) firing of White House correspondent Major Garrett? An indication comes from Robert Deans of Cox Newspapers, incoming president of the White House Correspondents Association, in his opening remarks at the White House Correspondents dinner days after the firing. Noting that many people had been surprised by the decision of Karen Hughes, outgoing communications adviser to George W. Bush, to leave Washington, Deans quipped: “This is a town where a talented person can work hard, work well, succeed, and reap the rewards of that success. Just ask Major Garrett.”