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National Perspective

Washington Insight

November 18, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

POWER BONDING: If Gray Davis needed any reminders of his new status as one of the nation's preeminent Democrats, the low-keyed, governor-elect of California certainly got them in Washington last weekend. On Saturday night, Davis and his wife, Sharon, were dinner guests at the elegant Naval Observatory home of Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper. Afterward, Davis and Gore--whom Davis jokingly calls his "charisma advisor"--bonded further, doing some serious star-gazing through a giant telescope. The session came to an abrupt end, however, when a chopper landed to ferry Gore to Air Force One, which would take him to Asia as a stand-in for President Clinton, who was staying up all night because of the Iraq crisis. The next day, a sleepy commander in chief insisted on seeing Davis--after brushing aside Davis' suggestion that he catch a few winks.

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THE UN-MALE: Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Pleasanton) on Tuesday became a prime beneficiary of a move by House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) to broaden diversity on his House Democratic leadership team. Gephardt named Tauscher a "co-chair" of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises money for House candidates. On Monday, the 211 House Democrats elected an all-male leadership team that included just one minority, Rep. Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Joining Tauscher, who will be in charge of member participation, are co-chairs Charles B. Rangel of New York and Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey. The campaign group's top honcho will be Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, a proven fund-raiser whose ambitions to join his dad in the Senate are no secret.

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POWER LUNCH: When it looks like your husband is going to be the speaker of the House of Representatives, what do you do? Lunch with Marianne Gingrich, of course. Bonnie Livingston, who met husband Bob--she calls him Rob--when the two were college students in Louisiana, said that Gingrich, wife of outgoing speaker Newt, shared pointers with her during a "wild week." And what did she learn? "In general, do what you want to do, and enjoy," Livingston said.

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RETIREMENT 101: When Gingrich becomes a private citizen again in January, he might be able to earn a few bucks posing as a poster boy for retirement planning; his congressional career is an advertisement for how not to do it. When the Young Turk from Georgia joined the House in 1978, he refused to participate in the congressional pension system, claiming it was too rich a deal. He relented in August 1989, but by then his principle had cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Despite the fact that his four years in the higher-paying speaker's job will boost his pension by 28%, Gingrich still is likely to receive only $24,900 in annual pension benefits, according to the National Taxpayers' Union. That's a lot less than the $75,000 annual pension he would have gotten if he had joined the plan right away. Gingrich will have to wait another seven years, until he's 62, to begin drawing his pension.

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THEN AND NOW: From the March 21, 1868, issue of Harper's Weekly, as noted on Harper's new Web site, www.Impeach-andrewjohnson.com: "The excitement in regard to the impeachment in Washington appears, indeed, to be confined almost entirely to the newspaper men. . . . On the morning on which the public printer was to deliver the impeachment articles to the House the whole force of newspaper correspondents, to the number of fifteen or twenty, assembled in the lobby to await his arrival."

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