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National Perspective

Washington Insight

March 25, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

HUMOR UNDER FIRE: The Gridiron Club dinner is an odd Washington tradition in which reporters nurture the all-important press-politician relationship by making fun of the elected class in satirical song and vamp. The role assigned to the numerous Congress members, Cabinet officials and others in the white-tie audience is that of good sport. And at Saturday's 113th annual Gridiron dinner, President Clinton proved once again that he is First Sport. Coming off yet another week dominated by news of investigations of his veracity and his sexual practices, Clinton began his speech with the line, "So how was your week?" and went on to explain that his remarks "were a whole lot funnier before the lawyers got ahold of them." As for the new movie that paints him in a colorful light, Clinton revealed that "this is not the first time John Travolta has modeled a character on me." Striking that famous disco pose, Clinton said: "That's my theme song--'Staying Alive.' "

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BEHIND THE GOP CURTAIN: At first glance, the conclave of Republican state chairs opening this Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colo., shapes up as a don't-miss event for political journalists: The advance press release promotes three days of strategy-planning for this year's midterm election campaigns. But alas, this impression is a tantalizing tease. Of the 24 events listed, only three--two speeches and a welcome party--are open to the press. Still, some reporters are bound to show up, counting on a practice common to all political gatherings. "Don't worry about the closed-door meetings," advised one veteran GOP operative. "There will be enough leaks to float all the stories you can write."

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STILL RUNNING: Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) is limping these days, and it most certainly is an injury he incurred while running. That's running as in jogging, not campaigning to become speaker of the House, which he also has been doing--with great vigor. "It's a recurring running injury--tendinitis," a Livingston spokesman confirmed. When not trying to line up votes to succeed Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Livingston tries to run five miles or more along the Potomac River in northern Virginia.

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RETURN OF THE PROSECUTOR: Charles G. LaBella, head of the Justice Department's campaign finance task force, is under "serious consideration" to succeed San Diego U.S. Atty. Alan Bersin--at least on an interim basis. But if Atty. Gen. Janet Reno chooses LaBella to succeed his former boss, he probably would continue to head the campaign funding team, shuttling from coast to coast. Bersin is leaving to head the San Diego Unified School District, and it has not been decided if his successor will also take on the post of border czar.

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HORRORS! As if American families didn't have enough to worry about, the International Mass Retail Assn. reports they "could face sticker shock next October." According to the association, a bill sponsored by Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) would make trick-or-treating more expensive. By reclassifying some imported costumes as "wearing apparel," the bill would result in "markedly higher prices for Halloween costumes and dress-up play sets," it says. Maybe the little ghosts and goblins should dress up as lobbyists instead.

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