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`Sopranos,' Hillary and more highlights from the politics blog

June 24, 2007|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM | Excerpted from The Times' political blog Top of the Ticket, at

He showed respect

for this thing of hers

The phone rang late last Saturday night in Johnny Sack's home. The caller wanted a sit-down the next morning at a diner in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

But this was no mob hit. Johnny had already died of lung cancer in prison. And the actor who played him on "The Sopranos," Vince Curatola, is just fine, thank you. The caller wanted him to play a cameo in a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign video that spoofed the long-running HBO gangster series to announce her new theme song.

Curatola, a Republican who voted twice for Bill Clinton, was only too happy to oblige. And for no fee, just a round-trip car ride. Curatola told the New York Post, "I like a lot about her. Guts, first of all. A lot of guts, a lot of staying power." But no endorsement just yet. Curatola, who's on the board of the Hackensack University Medical Center, tells the Washington Post, "If I see her platform leaning more and more toward a national healthcare plan, I would be very interested in her for president."

In the video, Curatola is sitting at the diner counter malevolently eyeing Bill and Hillary in their booth.

According to the actor, neither Clinton was a natural performer, missing their marks often during the shoot and apologizing each time.

The 'L' word: Rarely uttered

Search the transcripts of the three Republican presidential debates conducted so far this year, and the noun "conservative" appears repeatedly. As in, from Mitt Romney during the most recent forum: "I know I've got conservative credentials."

Perform the same search for the word "liberal" in the two debates among Democratic White House contenders, and you'll come up with -- zero hits.

The Democratic Party in general, and its left wing in particular, may be filled with optimism these days that they're riding the prevailing political tides, but Republicans remain far more comfortable using a succinct term to label their beliefs.

Filmmaker Robert Greenwald, whose works include scathing attacks on the Fox News channel and the Bush administration's Iraq policy, noted to The Times' Robin Abcarian that there's an ongoing dispute on the left over terminology. "There's a substantive argument ... about 'liberal' vs. 'progressive,' " he said.

Greenwald has been describing himself as a progressive for a decade, saying it "represents a way of looking at the world in a strong, uncompromising way and standing up for social values."

But is it catching on? Let's turn to that pesky search function again. In the two Democratic debates, "progressive" turns up once (used by Barack Obama).

Turning a couple of

red and blue states green

Boy, you better not toss an aluminum can into the wastebasket at next summer's Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"It will be the greenest convention we've ever had," convention CEO Leah Daughtry tells the Rocky Mountain News. The Democrats are working with the Coalition for Environmentally Friendly Conventions, which will also help the Republicans.

The Denver convention plans a wide range of environmentally friendly measures to ease the impact of thousands of visitors to the candidate-naming contest Aug. 24-28. Bring your cuff clips, because many will be expected to ride bicycles from downtown hotels to the Pepsi Center. Or take hybrid vans and taxis.

As you get off your plane on arrival, you'll be able to purchase carbon offsets to help repair the damage that your plane's jet engines just did to the atmosphere. You'll be asked to take shorter showers and use the same towel more than one day. The goal is a paperless convention with everything going by e-mail, so be sure to bring your rechargers.

A political sin or just stupid?

A lot of things are whispered during political campaigns, the point being to get out certain words about your opponents without them being traced back to the speaker. E-mail, which carries the sender's name right on top, may not be the way to do this.

Emma Nemecek now knows this. The southeastern Iowa field director for Sen. Sam Brownback's campaign, she sent out an e-mail raising a lot of questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She said she was just asking for fact-checking help, but, of course, the result could be getting more whispers going about Mormons.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney happens to be Mormon. He also happens to be leading in Iowa polls, and seems a shoo-in to win the symbolic Ames straw poll in August against Brownback, among other Republicans.

A campaign spokesman for Brownback issued a statement saying, "Sen. Brownback completely disavows himself of this and any personal attacks on religion." He said the campaign had reprimanded Nemecek and called to apologize to the Romney campaign, and it would not happen again. Brownback phoned Romney to apologize.

Bada bing

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