NOT SO FAST: The White House review of affirmative action programs seems to be stretching into the hazy beyond. Two weeks ago, top officials said they scarcely had enough time to act, and recently they considered a presidential speech next week to outline the Administration's approach to the rapidly swelling issue. Now the White House is telling lobbyists that the odds of a big speech next week are falling rapidly, and Press Secretary Mike McCurry is talking about the need to take time to "get it right." This means prolonged agony for the nervous Democratic core. But it will not displease some Democrats in Congress, who see the issue as a political bomb that they would be happy to delay indefinitely.
DEFENSE FIGURES: The Pentagon is scrambling to replace John M. Deutch now that the deputy defense secretary has been nominated to become CIA director. Aides say Defense Secretary William J. Perry has made the selection a top priority, but has not settled on a candidate. But there may be a twist: Ordinarily, the deputy's post would go almost automatically to Paul G. Kaminski, now undersecretary for acquisition and technology. Deutch himself once held that post. But Kaminski is new to the job, and Perry is said to want a No. 2 who is familiar with budget matters and with Congress. As a result, some insiders say Perry may buck tradition and pick Pentagon Comptroller John J. Hamre, a budget maven who spent years as a staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee. Hamre is articulate, widely liked and seemingly unambitious--traits not universally attributed to Deutch.
FOOD FIGHT: Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh last week urged listeners to call news organizations and demand that they "stop lying about the school lunch program." Instead of cutting funds for school lunches, Limbaugh noted, the House GOP plan would raise spending by 4.5% next year over the 1994-95 level. Many news accounts had compared the GOP plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's projected spending increase in the program of 5.2% next year. If the House GOP plan gains final approval, states will get the last word on spending levels since the school nutrition programs would be converted to block grants.
HI, BYE: Many months ago, when Whitewater was front page news, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr did all he could to avoid answering questions from reporters about his review of President Clinton's personal investments. Perhaps it is a measure of dwindling news media interest in the lengthy, complex investigation that Starr seems to have relaxed. Just the other day, when a Times reporter called the press office of Starr's headquarters in Little Rock, Starr himself answered the phone. Still, he refused to discuss the case.