Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) makes a good point in proposing that the presidential nominating process be turned over to the National Football League.
This way, candidates like Democrat Joe Lieberman who didn't fare well in the earliest stages of the primary season still would have a chance to win the political equivalent of the Super Bowl. Take the analogy of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
"On September 12, in the season's first game, the Buffalo Bills trounced the Patriots 31 to 0," Alexander points out. "If this had been the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating caucus, the Patriots would have been toast. You know the pundits' rule: Only three tickets out of Iowa.
"The Patriots certainly didn't look like one of the three best professional football teams," he says. "Then, the Washington Redskins defeated the Patriots, as unlikely as it would have been for Dennis Kucinich to upend Sen. (John) Kerry in New Hampshire. But in the National Football League, upsets don't end the season. The Patriots played 14 more games. They won them all."
The NFL schedules 20 weeks of contests over five months to determine the champion, yet as the senator reminds us, the presidential nominating process uses the equivalent of "two preseason games" - in Iowa and New Hampshire - to narrow the field and, more often than not, pick the winner.
"All but half are effectively eliminated after two contests," he says. "If professional football were presidential politics, (we) would pick the Super Bowl teams after three or four preseason games."
So, Alexander is suggesting that instead of cramming 28 primaries into five weeks after New Hampshire, the contests be spread out and held every two weeks.
"Iowa and New Hampshire could still come first," he says, "but they would become off-Broadway warm-ups and not the whole show."
SO LONG, JOE
We've stumbled upon a Democratic straw poll of cocktails being poured at the plush Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.
"Our patriotic duty," says the Four Seasons' Tricia Messerschmitt.
The surviving cocktails, after Tuesday's primaries: "Kerry Catch Up," "Johnny E. Good," "Dean's Scream," "Ku Ku Who," "Irreverent Reverend," and "Wild Wild Wes."
The "Cup o' Joe" (vanilla vodka, Bailey's Irish cream, decaffeinated coffee) wasn't very popular and has been pulled from the shelf.
You didn't read it here first, but John Quincy Adams loved to skinny-dip in the Potomac.
We've just finished reading Cormac O'Brien's new Quirk book, "Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Men of the White House," including our current leader, President Bush.
Certainly, Bush has vocalized more than his share of one-sentence bloopers - among our favorites: "My education message will resignate among all parents," and "Keep good relations with the Grecians." But were you aware that Dubya is the first president to hold an MBA?
And if you thought Bill Clinton was a "crass act" while manning the Oval Office, Lyndon B. Johnson "was gruff and obscene virtually all of the time," O'Brien observes. "He belched, swore and ... at his ranch in Texas, he was fond of terrifying guests by taking them on car rides down remote country roads at 90 mph while he drank scotch from a paper cup."
As for any Clinton revelations, we've read - or written - most of them before, although we didn't recall that Clinton fondled a woman in the bathroom during his own wedding reception.
American history, as the publisher notes, was never this much fun in school.
FOR THE BIRDS
A congressional committee is out to prove that window glass, not windmills, is the biggest killer of birds.
And if Congress loses the argument?
"Resources Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) will consider introducing legislation to ban the construction of most tall buildings, as they are most likely to have glass windows that murder birds," vows a House Resources Committee spokesman.
Recent hysteria over clean, renewable wind power and its impact on birds has been "misdirected," says the spokesman, referring to the Center for Biological Diversity's threatened legal action to halt the use of wind turbines east of Oakland, Calif.
"These windmills have been an environmentally-friendly source of energy for California's Bay Area for 20 years, but have come under attack of late as the killer of roughly 1,000 birds annually," said the spokesman, who cited a new report that as many as 1 billion birds meet their demise against window glass every year.
"Rabid environmentalists and animal activists are sure to be outraged by the new finding, but whether or not they call for a national ban on windows is not yet known," he said.
We might point out that the Washington Monument was found guilty of "murdering" 576 birds on one particularly foggy night.
It is several years in the future, and New York City is once again threatened by terrorists. A devastating "dirty bomb" attack against lower Manhattan and New York ports and docks is imminent. Federal antiterrorism units work desperately to head off the second attack.
Will they succeed?
Let's ask Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). After all, "Vale of Tears" - intertwining the fiction of tomorrow with the fighting spirit of Sept. 11 - is his book.
"It has an ending that is good, but when you get to the last page, it's not as good as you think," King told this column of his third novel.
"It certainly is the one that's meant the most to me," the congressman said when we recalled his other books. "It's obviously very personal as far as Sept. 11 goes - the events that I saw, the friends that I had."
King, who was born and raised in Manhattan, paused.
"I give them a proper memorial here in the book," he said.
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch said the book is King's best novel yet. A book launching for the congressman will be held Tuesday (Feb. 10) on Capitol Hill.
God forbid there be another attack on the United States equal to Sept. 11. Still, after three Senate office buildings shut down this week because of ricin contamination, Media Training Worldwide has updated its "crisis-communication tips" for official spokesmen and spokeswomen in Washington.
Among our favorites:
-"If you are the one official spokesperson during a crisis, then be ready to speak at all times."
-"If you are not the official spokesperson during a crisis, then keep you mouth shut at all times."
-"If you are wearing a wireless microphone, take it off immediately after your speech, especially if you are about to go to the bathroom. (Embarrassing accidents have happened, and not just in Leslie Nielsen movies)."
The Republic of Indonesia has hired former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole as a chief lobbyist in Washington.
The Jakarta Post says Dole has been assisting Indonesia with "certain" issues for some time. And in its latest edition on the same subject, the Far Eastern Economic Review quoted a senior U.S. official as saying Dole not only exercises considerable clout on Capitol Hill, but also has the ear of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.