That Girl

New York Senator Hillary Clinton?

Hillary as New York's junior senator, as Dick Morris speculated last week? A fetching prospect, but not likely, say the pros.

Certainly, if the First Lady were to establish residence in the manner of the late Bobby Kennedy and jump into the 2000 race for Pat Moynihan's seat (Bobby Jr. just cleared one roadblock by ruling out a run), she would rain on Andrew Cuomo's parade (and maybe even his dad's, if he is eyeing a come back). Not to mention that of Comptroller Carl McCall, who just won re election by a two-to-one margin in the face of the Pataki landslide.

She also would spell an early and merciful end to opportunists such as HHS secretary Donna Shalala and flack-turned-talking head George Stephanopoulos.

Then, in the main event, she probably could wipe the floor with Rudy Giuliani or Al D'Amato.

Gushed pollster John Zogby: "She is absolutely a perfect fit for New York. Not only is she popular among predictable groups, she is gaining crossover support from more un likely sources." As for the president's problems, Zogby emphasized: "She's got her own résumé."

Hank Morris, Chuck Schumer's campaign strategist, saw it similarly: "She's the most popular political figure in New York, totally in tune with New York values. She's immediately the person to beat."

But Tom Kiley, the consultant who's worked for Schumer and McCall, injected a note of caution. "I suppose if there's any state that might be open to that idea, it would be New York. She'd probably have a base among college-educated women. And she'd bring the Clinton agenda with out all the baggage." However, regarding McCall—whom he would likely represent—Kiley said he couldn't see Hillary wanting "to be in a posi tion of stepping on a precedent-setting election of an African American."

Marist Institute director Lee Miringoff noted that Hillary "was instrumental to the Schumer campaign," but added, "I doubt she could last through an election."

Pollster Julie Weprin of Blum & Weprin concurred. "She has the edge going in," Weprin said, "but look what happened to Geraldine Ferraro."


The Tipster

'Second Lady' Gets Down and Dirty in Honduras

As pundits dreamed of Hillary in New York, Second Lady Tipper Gore was honing her skills with photo ops amid hurricane wreckage in Honduras as flack Nathan Naylor got the TV crews ready for the great moment:

"She's gonna be shovelin' mud," Naylor explained. "Then she'll wipe the sweat from her brow, like this. Make sure you get that shot, all right?"

Tipper arrived for the photo op right on schedule. Unfortunately, as Phil Davison of the London Independent wrote, people didn't know who she was. Some thought she might be Princess Diana.

No problem.

There was "a six-foot pile of hardened mud" in a narrow street, writes Davison, "a strange pile, squarish and flattened, and it seemed odd that it had been left to block the street and hamper rescue efforts." Photographers clambered aboard the pile as Tipper dug in nearby.

"I counted eight shovelfuls and, sure enough, up came the glove to flick away the sweat..."

TV crews jockeyed for the best shots, and followed her later as Tipper bravely made a show of solidarity with the devastated people of Central America. After freshening up in her room at a luxury hotel, she returned to sleep under the stars in a tent.


Junk Sale

Clinton, Gore Push S&L-Style Bai louts in Asia

Meanwhile, Tipper's husband pranced through the Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere last week with Clinton in a vain effort to paper over the financial crisis threatening the entire world's economy.

The U.S. wants Asian bankers to shut down weak local businesses. Once that's done, Treasury Secretary Rubin would like Asian leaders to imitate the U.S. S&L bailout, repackaging deadbeat businesses in Asian-style resolution trust companies. Then these entities could sell off certain assets and offer junk bonds in the U.S. and other world markets.

Asian bankers are resisting. The cartels that dominate their economies don't want to throw large numbers of people out of work, causing even more drastic problems. But big securities firms—like Lehman Brothers, which advises Thailand, and Morgan Stanley, which consults with South Korea—argue that unemployment is a necessary precursor to recovery.

Who will purchase the bonds? Most likely, these same firms will persuade their customers—including huge union pension funds—to buy in.

Thus, Wall Street makes money two ways: advising Asian countries what to do, then repackaging their debt and selling it to their customers. It is in this way that U.S. workers, through pension and 401K funds, put Asian workers on the street.

The thing to remember is that only small amounts of U.S. money will go into companies that employ people to actually make things. By and large, the Clinton-Gore bailout is a sales campaign for Wall Street.


Anti-Social

Republicans' 'Surplus' Scheme To Steal Benefits

"We've gone from deficits as far as the eye can see to surpluses for as far as the eye can see," Republican Senator Pete Domenici, chair of the Budget committee, declared recently.

Well, not quite. Most of the $1.5 trillion in budget surpluses projected over the next decade comes not from any shrewd political moves by loud mouth Washington politicians, but simply because American workers are pumping their savings into Social Security. That money will be needed to pay for benefits over the next decade, and with the baby boomers beginning to cash in, there will be just enough. Excluding Social Security, the budget shows a deficit until 2004, then a small surplus until 2008.

But Republicans are cooking the books, looking for a way to spend the so-called surplus on tax cuts. These are the same politicians who've been claiming that Social Security is insolvent and ought to be privatized.

Marc Breslow writes in the feisty magazine Dollars and Sense: "The Republicans want to spend the retirement savings of moderate- and low-income Americans on tax breaks which, as usual, they will target to ward their wealthy campaign contributors. Then they will force us to play the stock market in order to replace Social Security."


DEA Ropes 'Dope' as Industrial Hemp Spreads Beat Weed

DEA agents are on the lookout for anyone growing industrial hemp, a crop the Clinton administration fervently believes can contribute to drug addiction. This is pretty unlikely.

"You'd have to smoke a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole to get a buzz, and you'd die from carbon monoxide first," says Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, which is introducing a line of hemp products.

The DEA could care less. The agency's war against hemp helps rationalize its budget, allowing the DEA to point to its success in the eradication of industrial hemp.

Farmers in Great Britain and Germany grow hemp, and under free-trade agreements Canadian farmers will shortly start dumping it in the U.S., where it will be used in the manufacture of textiles and as a nutty-tasting food oil.

But U.S. farmers, desperate for a money-making crop, will have to sit on the sidelines and watch the Canadians clean up. Recently, hemp enthusiasts have been talking about transforming the North American Industrial Hemp Council into a serious trade association, and approaching former CIA director James Woolsey about representing the group. Woolsey attended a recent hemp conference because of his interest in developing sustainable energy sources (which might include hemp) to make the U.S. less reliant on foreign fuels.

"Industrial hemp can play a high ly important role in American agriculture and business," Woolsey said.

"It's not a drug. So it shouldn't be regulated as one."

The fight to grow hemp has pulled together a group of odd bedfellows, ranging from actor Woody Harrelson, who wears clothes made of hemp, to entrepreneurs like the Body Shop's Roddick.

Says designer Ralph Lauren, "I've always loved the look of natural, rustic fabrics. I especially like the ...mix of hemp against silk—it's very romantic."

Exclaims Calvin Klein: "I love the fabric."


Starrgazer

Reached by phone the day after Ken Starr's testimony, Caroline Casey, the daughter of former Massachusetts congressman Joseph Casey and this city's preeminent astrologer, was ecstatic.

"It's like the O.J. trial," she opined gleefully. "O.J. is a Cancer. Ken Starr is a Cancer. In O.J., police frame a guilty man and in Monica, Starr frames a guilty guy. Isn't it eerie how much Lucianne Goldberg looks like Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate?

"Starr is the Puritan pornographer. Tom DeLay actually is the Whip, an exterminator who made fortunes saying the FDA has no business regulating chemicals like DDT."

Casey paused for a breath, then continued, "The Republicans say the corporation is the highest expression of collective good. This is all about corporate rule versus democratic process. The public is smarter than politicians. Corporations want passive consumers. Democracy requires rebellious free agents. That's what's heartening now. The public is disobedient."

Additional reporting: Bob Frederick

Details of Wall Street's Asian con job can be found in an upcoming report by Tim Shorrock of the Financial Market Center in Philomont, Virginia.

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