By Roger Simon
Monday, August 14
LOS ANGELESPatrick Kennedy is telling a joke that makes fun of
Patrick Kennedy, self-deprecating humor being the only kind of humor that
is safe for politicians to indulge in these days.
Kennedy, a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, is standing on the
lawn of the Norman and Mary Patiz estate, high up on a hillside in Beverly
Hills, the city of Los Angeles spread out like a twinkling
map-of-the-stars-homes beneath him.
Patiz is a radio mogul, and in Los Angeles, where realty is destiny,
everybody knows that the Patiz estate used to be the David Geffen estate,
which used to be the Marlo Thomas estate. (Few memories at this cocktail
party go back beyond Marlo Thomas.)
As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Kennedy,
33, is in charge of raising millions and millions of dollars, which, it
turns out, he is quite good at.
"His name alone is worth $10 million," a Democratic fundraiser tells me.
"People who take calls from nobody take calls from Patrick Kennedy."
So Patrick Kennedy is telling this story about how he has to call George
Clinton, the ultimate funk singer, and get him to appear at a Democratic
"Theyíve written it all out for me on a notecard," Kennedy is saying, "and
the notecard says I must say to him: 'We gotta have the funk!' "
The people standing around Kennedy begin to laugh.
"Itís underlined three times on the notecard," Kennedy is saying. " 'We
gotta have the funk.' I have to say this to him. So I get him on the phone
and say, 'This is Congressman Kennedy-Kennedy-Kennedy'Ö"
Everybody laughs again at how Kennedy is making fun of the power of the
"And then I say to him: 'We gotta have the funk!' And he comes right back
with, 'And youíre gonna get the groove, too!' He doesnít miss a beat. 'And
youíre gonna get the groove, too!' "
Everybody roars. Pretending that I get the joke, which I donít entirely
do, I laugh and wander away to where Martin Frost, a Democratic congressman
from Texas, is talking to a group of reporters.
Frost is asked how he thinks the presidential election is going to come
out and he says, "I think itís going to be close."
This is not good news for the Democrats.
If you think you are going to win, you usually say, "I think weíre doing
pretty well, we just have to guard against over-confidence."
If you think you are going to lose, you usually say, "I think itís going
to be close."
In any case, Frost thinks it is going to be close; and when he is asked if
an Al Gore loss could also doom Democratic hopes for taking back the House
of Representatives, he says, "Only if itís a landslide. If itís not a
landslide, the presidential race wonít have any effect on Congress."
This, too, is not usually considered good news.
Democrats donít usually talk about the possibility of a landslide loss
especially right before the Democratic Convention, but the truth is that a
number of Democrats and Republicans in Congress care much more about who
controls the House and Senate than who wins the White House.
It make sense: Who wins the White House affects only the destiny of the
nation and the world.
Who controls the Congress affects something really important: committee