Skin Mags? Not at This Department
Foreign Affairs, the Economist, and certainly U.S.News & World Report are titles you'd expect to see at the two State Department newsstands visited by the public, employees, and their kids, but Playboy and Penthouse? Yikes! Or so thought Condoleezza Rice a while back when she began receiving briefings in Foggy Bottom before her confirmation hearings as secretary of state. Alerted by an aide that the skin magazines, partially clad in brown paper covers, were placed beside newsmagazines and close to candy, nuts, and stuffed animals, she said, "I want them out."
A few weeks later, when she took over from Colin Powell, the eviction began. "The secretary wanted them gone immediately," says senior adviser Jim Wilkinson." She didn't understand how a department that claimed to fight for the rights of women worldwide could sell pornography that degrades women." And, he adds, the magazines "could be seen as contributing to a hostile work environment." He teamed with State's internal manager and several State women who had been campaigning against the publications but had gotten nowhere. Now that they have succeeded, some of those women are eyeing other lad mags like Maxim and FHM. But State News's Richard Williams isn't listening. It was no problem banning the XXX fare: It didn't move very fast. "But Maxim," he says, "is a bestseller."
On Deck, Bush Ace Steals a Few Days
We probably should have known a White House shake-up was in the works when Joshua Bolten, the dedicated budget boss who's taking over for Andy Card as chief of staff, sneaked out for a couple of weekdays last month to watch his beloved Washington Nationals. Facing even longer hours toiling in the West Wing, he took a quickie break to feed his love of baseball with two Grapefruit League games, we hear. And he brought the Nats good luck: They beat the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves. Considering his new job, Bolten probably won't get to see many back-to-back games in Washington, even though he holds season tickets. But when he goes, he's likely to see his predecessor: Bolten's seats are right behind Card's, just back of the Nats' dugout.
An Old Warrior May Be Losing the Fight
Top American officials who study Cuba and dictator Fidel Castro, 79, now believe that his Parkinson's disease is so bad that he will be dead in four years. "The Parkinson's has gone beyond the stage that it can be controlled," says a top U.S. official. "He's not going to live forever."
Trusting the Media: It's All in the Politics
Americans of all political stripes are remarkably trusting of the media-- their media, that is. The Winston Group, a GOP polling firm, tells us in new data compiled for the Congressional Institute that each side has national media outlets it believes. No surprise on the conservative side: It's Fox News and Rush Limbaugh in the top. Independents prefer the public outlets PBS and NPR. They also like CNN. Only Democrats include broadcast news among their faves, but after CNN and PBS. So what's it all mean? Myra Miller, Winston senior vice president, says: "Whether you are Republican, independent, or Democrat, cable, public TV, and radio are leading the way in trust of media."
Poker: As American as Apple Pie
Between them, they've won millions of dollars and countless poker tournaments with their tricks and strategy, but when the game's Big Three storm Washington next week to fight an online gambling ban, they won't be bluffing about how bad the impact could be. To stop the steamrolling legislation, poker royalty Greg Raymer, Chris Ferguson, and Howard Lederer will meet this week with lawmakers, staff, and even war vets at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to build support for online gambling. "This is a truly American tradition. Truman played. Departed Chief Justice William Rehnquist had games in chambers," argues Michael Bolcerek of the Poker Player's Alliance. His compromise with the gambling foes: Regulate it, tax it, "but don't treat poker players like al Qaeda."
You Can Pick Your Friends, But...
Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, makes no bones about disliking most of his GOP colleagues. "Republicans in the Senate," he says, "do not represent mainstream Republicans in this country. Mainstream Republicans in this country are more moderate and more thoughtful than the people I work with who are in the majority in the Senate." Ouch. Well, of the 55 GOP-ers, he's gotta like a few, right? "Someone asked me the other day," he says, "'Who are the moderate Republicans?' Hmm. Well, you've got Lincoln Chafee [of Rhode Island], sometimes the two senators from Maine [ Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins], and Arlen Specter [of Pennsylvania] whenever you don't need him. That's it." Double ouch.
Pollster to Dems: Skip the God Talk
Republican pollster Frank Luntz has just returned from New Hampshire and Iowa with his 2008 review of Democratic presidential candidates, and he has advice for the hopefuls: Stop talking about God. "If voters really cared," he says, "they'd be Republicans." He found that Democratic primary and caucus voters want to hear about the issues, not quotes from the Bible. So which Democrat is ahead? Luntz, whose 2004 poll predicted Sen. John Kerry would emerge, likes ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. As for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton? "She's going to have trouble if she doesn't lighten up."
Showing Off the Lighter Side of Lent
The Lenten season, when Roman Catholics give up a vice during the 40 days leading to Easter, is looking pretty good on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. By chance we bumped into the California lawmaker last week and complimented her on a new slimmed-down look. "Well," she says with a smile, "I gave up chocolate for Lent, and it's killing me."
This story appears in the April 10, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.