We decided to look back 10 and 20 years to see what our political leaders were up to. In February and early March of 1999, President Bill Clinton survived being booted from office, and White House intern Monica Lewinsky was still hot news. Also in 1999, then first lady Hillary Clinton's Senate run was merely a rumor, and Vice President Al Gore's presidential ambitions were being challenged by Bill Bradley. And 20 years ago, much like now, a new president was getting his feet wet in the White House — only then it was George Bush, the first one.
10 years ago . . .
- Washington Loves Monica. No city can have a love-hate relationship with one of its notorious newsmakers like flip-flop-prone Washington. You'd think the poll-obsessed town would have hissed Monica Lewinsky's return last week to testify anew against poll king President Clinton . Certainly she feared a frosty reception, friends say. But instead, the town handed her a big "Be Mine" candy heart, its Valentine's Day way of saying, "We're sorry." Instead of hostility she's seen elsewhere, Lewinsky was hugged by adoring crowds in the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel. One woman rapped, "You go girl," and another cooed, "Don't let it get you down." Lewinsky blushed and whispered, "Thank you." Some even tried to send sweetheart gifts and bouquets of red roses to her suite. "People came up to her all the time here with gifts and nice things to say. It's sweet," says a friend. (Feb. 15, 1999)
- Ironic Twist. Newsweek supersleuth Michael Isikoff, the reporter credited with bringing the Monica Lewinsky story to life, has been served with a sweeping subpoena that threatens to stall his tell-all book on the scandal. Whispers confirms that it was obtained by lawyers for Julie Hiatt Steele , indicted by Kenneth Starr for allegedly changing her story on whether President Clinton groped her friend and onetime White House aide Kathleen Willey. You see, Steele told Isikoff that Clinton did but later recanted to the respected scribe and in an affidavit. Now, Isikoff is in a pickle. If he refuses to turn over his magazine and book notes as requested, he could face contempt-of-court charges and possibly jail time. And if he does comply, his book could be delayed or worse: The notes might leak to lesser competitors writing their own tomes on the sexual affairs of the president. Neither Isikoff nor Newsweek would comment on the case. (Feb. 15, 1999)
- The big tease. Is Hillary Rodham Clinton going to run for the Senate from New York or not? Despite the chatter that she's just "considering it," insiders say the first lady is drooling over the prospect of replacing retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Sure, they say, she can raise the money and probably win, but there are election-law questions about how she could be an active candidate hosting fund-raisers while also acting as first lady. And there's a curveball some are tossing around: She might run for governor in Arkansas in 2002. "Whatever she wants," says her husband. (Feb. 22, 1999)
- Bradley's rookie jitters. Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Bradley made his first campaign 2000 swing through New Hampshire last week, but his traveling show led some to wonder if he's ready for prime time. In a state dominated by one TV station, WMUR, Bradley's staff barred the ABC affiliate's cameras from a key event. Then, he couldn't be heard at some campaign stops because of poor sound systems. On top of that, he forgot to give a heads up to local Democratic officials when he visited Plymouth, a cardinal sin of retail politics in the homey state hosting the nation's first primary. Finally, the former NBA star shot hoops with kids but missed his first five free throws. And Concord Monitor reporter Pamela Walsh says he pronounced the town "Con Chord" instead of using the locally correct "Con Ked." (Feb. 8, 1999)
- Waiting for Bush. Texas Gov. George W. Bush's coy approach to the 2000 White House race is frustrating other presidential wannabes, because Republican House members won't give endorsements until Bush makes up his mind. Word is that most House Republicans support Bush because they think he's a winner who can carry them to victory too. The failure to pick up early House endorsements has miffed other GOP candidates, such as former Vice President Dan Quayle, whose Campaign America political action committee doled out cash to some of those very same Republicans now snubbing him. (March 1, 1999)
20 years ago . . .
- A playful President. George Bush, it turns out, is a practical joker. He has taken to surprising friends by suddenly turning on his "pocket terminator"—a gadget that imitates the rattle of a machine gun or the whine of a falling bomb. Friends say the President will leave the device home when he packs for the next summit with Mikhail Gorbachev . (Feb. 6, 1989)
- Junk the junkets? If Congress votes to forbid members to accept honorariums from special-interest groups, the next step in Washington's current ethical frenzy may be a campaign to control one of the lobbyists' venerable traditions: The junket. Reformers are upset that the honorarium ban will not affect the custom of all-too-eager lobbyists offering lawmakers all-expenses-paid travel. The reformers cite, for example, two items on the junket calendar: This month's turkey shoot for as many as 30 lawmakers in Western Maryland, sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors, and next month's Congressional Charity Tennis Tournament at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, hosted by the Grocery Manufacturers of America. (Feb. 13, 1989)
- Barbara's china policy. Barbara Bush is breaking with still another recent White House tradition. Rather than spending a fortune on a new set of official china—or encouraging a donor to do so—the new First Lady is thinking of adding nothing to the stock, or perhaps a minimal set for 24. After Inauguration Day in 1981, Nancy Reagan accepted a controversial gift of 220 place settings worth $209, 508. (Feb. 20, 1989)
- Commander Photo Dog. So far, George Bush has good relations with the White House press corps, but he has established an especially easy rapport with the still photographers and TV crews, whom he calls "photo dogs." Several times since his inauguration, the President has made unscheduled visits to the section of the press area where the camera operators congregate. And while reporters are busy writing in another room, he exchanges off-the-record banter with the "dogs," who respect his confidence and don't ask tough questions. One morning last week, Bush brought Millie, his English springer spaniel, to meet the other "dogs," who responded by donning "Photo Dogs" caps and awarding Bush a "Commander Photo Dog" cap, complete with military-style gold braid. (Feb. 27, 1989)
- No federal case. The New York Times recently outraged feminists when, in a column by Tom Wicker on the op-ed page, it identified male members of the Supreme Court by the title "Justice" but repeatedly referred to Justice Sandra Day O ' Connor , the High Court's lone female member, as "Mrs. O'Connor." The Times says it did not intend to demean Justice O'Connor and hopes women readers don't make a federal case out of "an editing mistake." (Feb. 27, 1989)
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