Not even the rough-and-tumble world of politics is imune from Cupid's amorous arrows this Valentine's Day.
Love was in the air as early as last week, when newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cooed fondly about his past meetings with new National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. According to an item in Sunday's London Independent, the recollection came as Sharon spoke to reporters from Israel's Channel 2 News:
"His precise confession is a matter of some debate. But when Condoleezza Rice visited Israel last year, Mr Bush's new national security adviser made a powerful impression on him. At the very least, Mr. Sharon said he found the woman very attractive. According to other sources, he said: 'I have to confess, it was hard for me to concentrate in the conversation because she has very nice legs.'"
Closer to home, one group was making the familiar "nothing says 'I love you' like a tax cut" pitch. That was the word from the conservative Family Research Council, who used the occasion to lobby for an end to the so-called marriage penalty.
"This year, in fact, Congress will introduce several proposals to eliminate the marriage tax, and we say, let a thousand roses bloom," FRC President Ken Connor said in a statement Wednesday. "Congress should begin by fixing one of the strangest and most inequitable features of our tax code and restore goodwill toward married couples."
According to a recent account in People magazine, and relayed by the Hotline's Howard Mortman, Democrats have also been known to get swept up by the holiday. Denise Rich, ex-wife of the newly-liberated international man of mysetery Marc Rich, once hired "17 umbrella-toting cupids in red hot pants who sang 'It's Raining Men' at a recent Valentine's Day celebration." -- Anthony York [2:35 p.m. PST, Feb. 14, 2001]
The Harlem Shuffle Bill Clinton is out of office, but he's still not out of the woods. The Senate Judiciary Committee is opening a probe of the former president's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Meanwhile, Republicans in the House have sharpened their subpoena sticks, aiming to snag Denise Rich's bank statements, the Clinton library's donor list, White House visitor logbooks and e-mails from the waning days of the Clinton administration.
Though the congressional wing of the GOP wants to proceed, a different message is coming from the West Wing. President Bush said Tuesday that he has no interest in further investigation of Clinton capers and that the country should move on.
Clinton himself is having trouble moving on. With the Republicans staying on his case, the ex-president is racking up legal bills while his second career as a public speaker is struggling. After some anti-Clinton investors balked when Morgan Stanley Dean Witter paid him $125,000 for a speech in Florida last week, PaineWebber's parent company ended negotiations to have Clinton speak at one of its events.
Even Clinton's political allies are dismayed by the lingering scent of scandal surrounding his exit from the White House. Democrats reportedly are thinking twice about how prominent a role he should play in the Democratic Party's leadership.
The former president is also running into an unexpected roadblock as he tries to settle on office space in Manhattan. Though Harlem residents seem eager to have Clinton move into the top floor of an office building in their neighborhood, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that that space already belongs to the city. But Giuliani, who was Hillary Rodham Clinton's first opponent in the New York Senate race, said that he'd be willing to let the ex-president have the office if the price is right.
-- Alicia Montgomery [6 a.m. PST, Feb. 14, 2001]
Sean "Puffy" Combs may have been able to dodge bullets in a nightclub, and might escape jail time on firearms charges, but will he be able to avoid the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? The animal rights group claims that Combs' crew tricked it into calling off a protest outside his Sean Jean fashion show Saturday by pretending that the rapper/designer had promised a fur-free line of clothing.
"We were assured that, yes indeed, Puffy had matured and so had his clothing line," says PETA spokeswoman Dawn Carr. "Of course, when the models came down the runway, they were covered in dead animals."
It could be especially difficult for Combs to de-fur his fashion line. He had been credited with infusing men's fashion with his own brand of "hip-hop" style -- bright colors, big accessories and, yes, fur. His models wore the full range of the animal kingdom, from ostrich leather and crocodile skin slacks to Persian lamb overcoats to fox, mink and lynx tail scarves. "It looked like a herd of bison barreling down the runway," Carr says. PETA rescinded a press release congratulating Combs on his reversible fur policy, and pins the deception on Puffy's publicist, Hampton Carney. Carney was not available for comment, but his public relations agency, Paul Wilmot Communications, has warned PETA that Puffy's attorneys will respond to any attack -- animal, vegetable or mineral -- with appropriate legal force.
A chance for the lawyers to show some muscle may be coming soon. PETA protesters will be waiting for Combs on Wednesday outside the Manhattan courthouse where he is facing gun and bribery charges. Carr suspects Combs' current legal problems may be at the root of the fur flip-flop. "Clearly, there's chaos in the Combs camp," Carr says. "At best, they're disorganized; at worst, they're dishonest."
Bottoms up for "That's My Bush!"
Martin Sheen gets to play an idealized Clinton on NBC's "The West Wing." Now Timothy Bottoms will play current POTUS George W. Bush for Comedy Central. "That's My Bush!" the upcoming live action comedy created by "South Park" auteurs Trey Parker and Matt Stone, debuts on April 4 with Bottoms in the lead role.
"Bottoms is a great get," says Tony Fox, spokesman for Comedy Central. The actor costarred in director Peter Bogdanovich's classic film "The Last Picture Show" and the legal drama "The Paper Chase." He hasn't been on Hollywood's hot list much since the '70s, and his most recent credits include the 1999 release "The Prince and the Surfer." He also has a recurring role on ABC's medical drama "Gideon's Crossing."
The show has already had its share of controversy. When reports surfaced in January that Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, would be depicted as lesbian lovers in the program, Comedy Central was reportedly warned by corporate parent Viacom to back off. Though the Bush twins won't be part of the show after all, Fox said that the decision to drop them was a creative choice -- not a political one -- that Parker and Stone had made before any pressure was applied. "They had sort of moved off the girls in any event," Fox says.
-- Alicia Montgomery [12:15 p.m. PST, Feb. 13, 2001]