Campaign Buzz

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 28, 2004 12:00 AM

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry can't escape the "Swift Boat" wake, although CBS News anchor Dan Rather's "bias" tops all political buzzwords in the Global Language Monitor's September PQ (Political-sensitivity Quotient) Index.

Neither of the above sagas is helping Kerry's campaign - "in many cases overshadowing the key messages of the Democratic nominee," according to the index, a proprietary algorithm that tracks politically sensitive words and phrases in the media.

"With five weeks remaining in the campaign, there is a very real danger that Kerry's key messages continue to be swamped by the 'Swift Boats' and 'Rathergate' issues," says Paul JJ Payack, president of the California-based language monitor.

"Swift Boats" actually is getting more media hits and citations than all other key Kerry messages combined, according to the index, including "two Americas," "Bush the misleader," "jobless recovery" and "global outsourcing."

DANCING FOR DUBYA

Stumping for votes in Wisconsin, President Bush traveled by motorcade through the town of Walworth, where, according to the official White House Pool Report, there was an eye-catching group of ladies on hand to welcome him: "(I)n the parking lot of the Vegas Gentlemen's Club, the talent stood on the back of a flatbed truck and offered waves to the president."

EXEMPLARY EIGHT

They are a most unique group of eight Americans, each a public servant who touched countless lives. Tuesday night they were honored by the Partnership for Public Service with its 2004 Service to America Medals. Receiving the award during the gala at Washington's Union Station were:

- The Energy Department's Nicole Nelson-Jean , who, at a mere 28 years of age, led a U.S. delegation to the Arctic Circle to negotiate an agreement with Russian officials to better secure Russia's nuclear materials and weapons.

- Eileen Harrington, who led a team at the Federal Trade Commission that developed and implemented the national do-not-call registry, reducing the number of telemarketing calls for more than 60 million Americans.

- Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, now dean of the State Department's Leadership and Management School. Bushnell guided the U.S. Embassy in Kenya through its deadly 1998 bombing and was a leading voice urging a response to the ethnic genocide in Rwanda.

- Brad Gair, federal coordinating officer with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, who oversaw the government recovery efforts in New York City after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

- Stephen E. Browning, who, as director of regional programs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, led U.S. efforts to help Iraqis rebuild their electrical infrastructure, and acted as the administrative head of multiple Iraqi ministries. Earlier, he led recovery efforts at Ground Zero in New York.

- FBI Special Agent Robert F. Clifford, who led the investigation that resulted in the conviction of more than a dozen members of the notorious November 17 terrorist group, arguably Europe's most elusive terrorist network.

- Peter Darling, senior special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agent Darling led a team that shut down a massive conspiracy in which babies and female couriers were used to smuggle cocaine in baby-formula cans.

- Deborah Jin, a physicist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology who created a new form of matter that could unlock the key to superconductivity, a phenomenon with the potential to dramatically improve energy efficiency.

HELEN BARES ALL

If Helen Thomas had not revealed her stripes when earlier labeling George W. Bush "the worst president in all of American history," she bared more the other day at a women's issues conference hosted by Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat.

"If George W. Bush is re-elected, we will have war without end," the Alexandria Gazette Packet quoted Thomas as saying. "We never should have invaded Iraq. It will be a long time before we get our honor back."

The longtime White House correspondent (for UPI, before she became a columnist for Hearst newspapers) said Bush "has made us the most despised nation in the world."

She scolded her colleagues of the press, too, "because they have rolled over and played dead." Many television commentators, she observed, "have no actual reporting experience."

"There are no pictures of bloody Iraqi babies like there were from the recent Russian tragedy. This war has become so sterile," Thomas complained, while here at home the "administration is playing the fear card to the hilt."

Dealing her own fear cards, she said: "If Bush is re-elected, the draft will be reinstated, Social Security will be nearly eliminated, and there'll be more tax cuts for the rich."

She got a sustained standing ovation from the Democratic crowd, prompting Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper to comment: "I wish she would join the campaign trail."

You mean she already hasn't?

HELP ME, RHONDA

She doesn't administer Botox injections, but Rhonda Jenkins, who manages the makeup department for the Washington bureau of the Fox News Channel, has helped make Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry look his best.

For two-plus decades, Jenkins, a former Washington Redskinette, has powdered countless politicians and celebrities - from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to singer Dolly Parton.

"Everyone knows that what you look like is seen before what you say is heard," she tells this columnist. "I have prepared the Washington power elite for their close-ups for more than 20 years and now the face behind the faces is taking the show on the road."

Tomorrow, Jenkins launches her own mobile makeup and hair studio, "Beauty To Go," a customized Winnebago (it houses six styling stations) that will primp and pamper politicians at their doorsteps.

Celebrities and politicians, as Jack Valenti, the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, once observed, "spring from the same DNA."

HILL HARVEST

In passing the 2005 Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, Congress this week handed itself a pay raise - jacking up its annual salary nearly $4,000 above a current income of $158,000.

It marks the sixth straight year that Congress has accepted an automatic pay raise. Hats off to two-term Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah Democrat, who last week made a procedural attempt to prevent the annual pay increase, but his measure was voted down 235 to 170.

Does anybody care that the congressional paycheck is growing while the country is $422 billion in debt?

"Members of Congress must think that money grows on trees," says Council for Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz, who agrees that "one of the many perks of being a member of Congress is that it is the only job in which you can apparently get away with giving yourself a pay raise during a time of increasing red ink."

FLIP-FLOPPING

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani told President Bush this week that he is sorry.

"I owe you an apology," Giuliani began. "I made a mistake during my (Republican National Convention) speech . . . I said that with 64 days to go, John Kerry could change his mind five or six times about what to do in Iraq. Well, he's already changed his mind four or five times and I'm going to be proven wrong again because I think we're looking more like eight or nine times."

OUTLASTING MOSES

"In all my years in the Senate, I have never seen the abusive tactics, shameless attacks, and polarizing and poisonous language they're now using in a desperate effort to cling to their narrow majority in Congress."

- Sen. Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who was first elected to the Senate 42 years ago in 1962, referring to the Republicans

HAIRY KERRY

So much for Sen. John Kerry's hair.

Seventy-six percent of respondents to a Grooming Lounge (where political-party heads as well as celebrities such as Bruce Willis and Elliot Gould get coiffed while in Washington) poll say President Bush has better hair than his rival.

And don't think hair isn't important in this era of television campaigns, when elections can come down to whoever looks the part.

Bushier-browed candidates, for example, have lost the popular vote in the past four presidential elections. And 92 percent of those surveyed think Kerry has the most pronounced "eyebrows of mass destruction" of the two candidates.

"In order to prevent history from repeating itself, we believe Kerry needs to have his eyebrows groomed," says Mike Gilman, co-founder of Grooming Lounge.

PENCE PENDING

A group of more than 90 House conservatives who make up the House Republican Study Committee have named Indiana Rep. Mike Pence their new chairman for the 109th Congress.

"I am deeply humbled to be elected to lead those in Congress I have long admired for their principled and conservative stands," says Pence, who points out that his very first task is to get re-elected to a third term.

NEWT NOTES

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has signed a book deal with Regnery Publishing to examine the economic, social and geopolitical issues - including the current political gridlock - facing the United States in this post-Sept. 11 world. The book is due out in January.