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WASHINGTON INSIGHT

From The Times Washington Bureau

DOUBLE THE FUN: At 1 hour and 21 minutes, President Clinton’s State of the Union Address Tuesday was not only the longest in recent history; it was more than twice as long as his infamous 32-minute oration at the 1988 Democratic National Convention--the one that won him a national reputation as a windy speaker. Back then, Arkansas Gov. Clinton was supposed to speak for 15 minutes, but went on so long that delegates cheered when he said: “In closing. . . . " The convention speech was “clearly longer than we had anticipated,” a young Democratic Convention spokesman admitted in 1988, joking that Clinton’s revisions had turned out to be “additions.” That spokesman, Mike McCurry, is now Clinton’s White House press secretary.

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COSTLY WORDS: Republicans had some fun with the length of Clinton’s speech: “If his speech writers get paid by the word, we’ll never balance the budget,” joked Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.). Said Stephen Hess, speech writer to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and author of two State of the Union addresses: “I can’t remember one this long, but I only go back 40 years.”

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UP AND AWAY: House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.) has bowed to the wishes of 11 members of the Congressional Black Caucus and removed a newly hung portrait of the late Rep. Howard Smith, a Virginia Democrat who defended slavery and opposed civil rights legislation. Solomon insisted he meant no harm in hanging the portrait in the committee’s hearing room. He said he merely wanted to commemorate Smith because he had been fair to Republicans during his chairmanship of the committee from 1955 to 1966. “Members of the Black Caucus who have known me for a long time . . . know I would never knowingly display any symbol offensive to them in any way,” Solomon said in a statement. “Their expression of concern was more than sufficient for me.”

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IL PREPARED: When Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) read from a prepared text at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Korea this week, he had a wee problem with the name of Korean President Kim Jong Il. “The American people are entitled to know the nature of the President’s commitment contained in his October, 1994, letter to North Korean Kim Jong Two,” the 73-year-old committee chairman said. Maybe just a case of fading I-sight.

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TRAVELERS RIGHT: Lest there be any doubt about the nation’s conservative tilt: Remember the baby boomers’ palm-sized, red-jacketed paean of leftist ideology, “Quotations from Chairman Mao”? No campus fellow traveler was without one in the 1960s. Now Newt-warp to 1995 and a new palm-sized, red-clad book, “Quotations from Speaker Newt.” Says a promotional release: “First there was Jefferson. Then Lincoln. Then Roosevelt. And now Newt.” Included are such remarks as Rep. Newt Gingrich’s observation that visiting the World War I battlefield at Verdun “literally changed my life. I came to the conclusion . . . that the quality of leadership is a major factor in whether civilization survives. So I sort of changed my goal from zoo director or vertebrate paleontologist to being a leader.”

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TRUTH WILL OUT: GOP Chairman Haley Barbour, known for his tongue-in-cheek quips and homespun color, told reporters at last week’s Republican National Committee session: “I try not to answer questions about things I don’t know anything about unless I see a political advantage.”


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