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Washington Insight

May 31, 1993|PAUL HOUSTON

PRIME POTOMAC PLAYER: A buttoned-up Brit he's not. Thoughtful, charming and wide-ranging in contacts he is, as Washington's most visible foreign diplomat and social lion. Sir Robin Renwick, British ambassador to the United States, has been in the middle of U.S.-European strategy talks on Bosnia. In part, that's because he is close friends with the likes of President Clinton's foreign policy adviser, Anthony Lake, Defense Secretary Les Aspin and CIA Director R. James Woolsey, not to mention all their counterparts in previous Republican administrations. He also has strong personal links to some of America's top black leaders--largely because he was instrumental, as ambassador to South Africa, in getting that country's president, Frederik W. de Klerk, to release black revolutionary Nelson Mandela from prison as a start toward peace. . . . Renwick said his government hasn't bought Clinton's proposed air strikes against Bosnian Serbs because Britain, although "quite a warlike country," is fearful of "a quagmire" in the region. But "we are not excluding the use of air power. It may come to that," he said in his embassy office, amid 10 books he plans to read while on speaking trips around the United States. . . . Renwick gives famously fabulous parties, enlivened by blue-grass bands and an orchestra of electronic robots. His favorite team: the Washington Redskins. "Pro football," he avers, "is much more spectacular than soccer."

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TURNABOUT: George Bush's last attorney general, William P. Barr, is open-mouthed over the Clinton White House leaning on the FBI for help in the travel office fiasco. "Let's just say, if this happened on my watch, I wouldn't be let up for air," said Barr, who could be excused if he's luxuriating in the Democrats' discomfort: He was accused by some Democrats during the presidential campaign of, ahem, politicizing the Justice Department.

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PROBE PLANNED: Intrepid House investigator John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) is organizing broad hearings into "a morass of waste and mismanagement" from government contracting. High on Dingell's target list: an Energy Department contract with the University of California under which he says $500 million in "excess taxpayer dollars" has been overpaid to a UC pension fund--and needs to be recovered.

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PEROT GLOW: Republican House freshmen were aglow after 1992 presidential also-ran Ross Perot endorsed some of their reform ideas (line-item veto, etc.) in meetings at the Capitol. "He wanted to be helpful in any way he could," said freshman class president Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). McKeon added that it's "way too early" to say whether he could support Perot for President in 1996 if he ran as a Republican. For one thing, GOP presidential hopeful Jack Kemp is the star attraction at a McKeon fund-raiser in Studio City next month.

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SHORT TAKES: The First Lady, a native of Park Ridge, Ill., has joined a Washington-based Chicago Cubs fan club, noting that in 35 years of rooting for the perennially hapless team, she has "developed a set of expectations that will probably never be met. However," added the wife of the man from Hope, Ark., "hope springs eternal." . . . Dorothy (Doro) Koch, daughter of former President Bush, has a new baby and a new bumper sticker on her van: "Don't Blame Me--I Voted for Bush."

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