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Washington Insight

March 28, 1994|PAUL HOUSTON and ROBERT SHOGAN

VIRGINIA REELING: With Republicans aiming to retake the Senate in this fall's elections, no battleground is more turbulent than Virginia, where each party's front-runner is in hot water--and being scalded by cartoonists and TV comedians. Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) has admitted to behavior "inappropriate for a married man," and his GOP challenger, Iran-Contra figure Oliver L. North, has been denounced by his ex-boss, former President Ronald Reagan, for lying. . . . Fearful that the GOP will nominate North instead of former Reagan Administration Budget Director James Miller, Republican business executives and party leaders are planning to field an independent candidate who would have the backing of North's arch-critic, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.). That could open the door to former Democratic Gov. L. Douglas Wilder to run as an independent, drawing from a base of blacks and white liberals. . . . Wilder, who with conservative state Sen. Virgil Goode may also challenge Robb in the Democratic primary, complains that North and Robb are "the laughingstock of the country."

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BOOKING THE HIGH ROAD: In a political age that has plunged most office-seekers into the politics of negativism, Republican presidential prospect William J. Bennett is taking a loftier road--and cashing in. His $27.50 hardback, "Book of Virtues," is high on the best-seller list, with sales already topping three-quarters of a million copies. "There's not," the author says proudly, "a nasty or salacious word in it." . . . White House aide David Gergen favorably reviewed the book in a session with reporters, saying that even "good Democrats" are reading its stories on moral values to their children.

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MOLE PATROL: When the CIA opened its doors and some of its archives to Cold War scholars at a recent conference, the focus was on the agency's early years during the Harry S. Truman presidency. But it was probably inevitable that the subject of the agency's alleged turncoat spy, Aldrich H. Ames, would come up. . . . Russian historian Vladimir Pozniakov wanted to know whether the agency had been plagued by a similar mole-like spy during the Truman era. "You'll have to tell me that," retorted CIA historian Mary McAuliffe. . . . Pozniakov later told a reporter that his own search of Communist Party records had yielded "no trace" of Soviet penetration during that period, or any sign that the United States had burrowed a mole in Soviet intelligence operations. But he cautioned that his search was limited: "We still have no access to former KGB archives."

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NO CIGAR: Rep. Michael Huffington (R-Santa Barbara) strongly opposes any tax increase, except one on tobacco because of its cancer costs. So why was the pin-striped senatorial candidate pictured in the New York Times greeting pro-tobacco forces on the steps of the Capitol, where they were lobbying against just such a tax hike? "Just being friendly," a spokesman said, explaining that Huffington was merely on his way to vote--and still favors boosting tobacco taxes.

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OUT OF ORDER: After House Rules Committee Chairman Joe Moakley (D-Mass.) called his seatmate, Rep. Butler Derrick (D-S.C.), "Mr. Butler" for the umpteenth time, Derrick joined in the laughter and noted Moakley's persistence: "After 17 years!"

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