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Washington Insight

August 08, 1996|From The Times Washington Bureau

PRESIDENTIAL PARTY: The first family is planning to celebrate President Clinton's 50th birthday next week with all the subtlety and understatement of the 1993 inaugural. The extravaganza, to be produced by Jeff Margolis--whose credits include the Academy Awards program and the Miss America pageant--will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Aug. 18. Hillary Rodham Clinton is in charge of planning the bash. It's not a surprise party, "but there will be surprises," according to her spokesman, Neel Lattimore. The theme revolves around the five decades of the president's life, with Hollywood presenters and top musical talent for each. Clinton friend and loyal Democrat Whoopi Goldberg is mistress of ceremonies; she'll share the podium with screen stars Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Leslie Nielsen and Nathan Lane, and poet Maya Angelou. Music from the '40s through the '90s will be performed by Tony Bennett, Jon Bon Jovi, Aretha Franlin, Smokey Robinson, Carly Simon, Kenny Rogers, Jennifer Holiday and Shania Twain. Guests can share in the festivities through live video feeds at 80 satellite parties, including four in California. The Democratic National Committee, which is hosting the affair, expects 5,100 guests paying a minimum of $250 each. As always, a bigger donation gets you closer to the action.

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FRIENDLY ADVICE: By now most people know campaign consultant Ed Rollins' new book "Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms--My Life in American Politics," is chockablock with scathing remarks about political figures grand and small. But lost in the furor is practical advice the book offers to other strategists. Included under the "Rules of Campaign Combat" that the former strategist for Ronald Reagan, Ross Perot and New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman says he follows: "Always fire first. Always assume that your candidate hasn't told you everything and that what he hasn't told you has leaked out. If your candidate says, 'Don't worry, I can raise the money,' worry--and demand to be paid up front. Never get into a [dispute] with the person or persons who sleep with your candidate."

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CALMER SEAS: The Navy is enjoying a break from the spotlight following last May's tragic suicide of the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jeremy Michael Boorda. In the last 2 1/2 months, the Navy has all but avoided adverse publicity: A story about another admiral charged with sexual misconduct earlier this month received only scant notice. Defense analysts speculate that Boorda's death--he shot himself just before a newsmagazine was to interview him over allegations that he improperly wore a combat decoration on a Vietnam-era medal--has given some critics second thoughts about portraying the service as hopelessly problem-ridden in the wake of the 1991 Tailhook convention scandal. Congress, too, is showing a willingness to let the Tailhook issue fade: The Senate easily approved the nomination of Boorda's successor, Adm. Jay L. Johnson, even though he once received an official letter admonishing him for not having done more to prevent the behavior of aviators at the convention.

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OLYMPIC HUMOR: Bob Dole's penchant for zinging one-liners and his dislike for the press were both on display last week as he pressed the flesh during a tour of Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park in the company of two American Olympic gold medalists, wrestlers Kurt Angle and Kendall Cross. At one point, the three found themselves nose to nose with two reporters covering the Dole campaign. Turning to the burly wrestlers, Dole quipped: "Take these guys out for me, will you?" Perhaps unfamiliar with Dole's humor, Angle looked slightly puzzled. But he relaxed after a laughing Dole quickly added: "Out to dinner, I mean."

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