Arianna Huffington, a conservative cable TV talk show host and wife of former Rep. Michael Huffington (R-Santa Barbara), claims that Sen. Bob Dole's presidential campaign is trying to "muzzle" and "discredit" her for criticizing his candidacy. Dole's campaign says that Arianna Huffington has been saying mean things about the majority leader and his wife and is "a little hysterical" over a tough telephone call from campaign manager Scott Reed.
A war of words between Huffington and the Kansas senator that has been escalating over the past month took on the characteristics of a World Wrestling Federation extravaganza Friday, with charges and countercharges, angry letters and angrier replies.
At the center of the dispute are Huffington, an ardent proponent of the conservative movement whose behind-the-scenes role in her husband's unsuccessful Senate campaign last year made her a center of controversy, and an increasingly testy Dole campaign, which other Republicans say is nervous about a possible entry into the Republican nomination fight by retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin L. Powell.
The battle began last month when Huffington wrote an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal praising Powell's leadership capacity and warning Republicans that "the emperor has no clothes--i.e., Bob Dole is not electable." She also described Dole with words such as "hacksmanship" and "lackluster."
An unhappy Dole, who had campaigned repeatedly for Huffington's husband in the latter's race against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), wrote a note of disapproval, which began by saying he agreed with Huffington that Powell is an outstanding American.
"One of the qualities that helps to make him so is the loyalty he has shown to those who assisted him along the way," Dole wrote. "I'm sure that Gen. Powell would believe--as I do--that harshly attacking someone who campaigned for your husband is not behavior that should be respected or repeated."
Last week, Huffington went on CNN's "Crossfire" and once again promoted Powell over Dole.