Sunday, March 28, 1999

Don't worry, Bill will be back

Both parties sorry Clinton canceled

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The president of the United States almost came to Cincinnati; Air Force One was revved up and ready to go Wednesday when the bombs started dropping on Yugoslavia.

        So the mega-bucks Democratic National Committee (DNC) fund-raiser at the Amberley Village home of lawyer Stan Chesley was canceled, as was the rest of Bill Clinton's three-day Democratic fund- raising road show.

        But don't you worry about a thing. It will be rescheduled, once things calm down a bit. Just as soon as he can, the president's motorcade will be tying up midday traffic in Cincinnati. Mr. Clinton wouldn't miss it for the world; Mr. Chesley's home has turned into a giant ATM for the Democrats, one that never runs out of cash.

        But if you think the DNC is sorry that Mr. Clinton had to cancel his fund-raising trip, they are not half as sorry as the Ohio Republican Party.

        At 3:28 p.m. Wednesday, the fax machine at the Enquir er spit out a press release from the Ohio Republican Party topped by a big, bold headline: “Clinton doesn't let Kosovo attack interfere with raking in the bucks at big Cincinnati fund-raiser.”

        “President shameless for not cancelling fund-raiser, says Bennett,” it said, referring to Bob Bennett, the Ohio Republican Party chairman.

        Problem was, the White House press office had called the Enquirer about an hour before the GOP fax arrived, saying the trip was a no-go. Kosovo, you know.

        Well, it would have been shameless. Really.

        Bill Clinton didn't make it to Cincinnati this week, but one of his former acolytes did.

        George Stephanopoulos, for six years a Clinton adviser and now a TV commentator, was in town as part of a 25-city book tour. The book — which comes to the shocking conclusion that Bill Clinton is a flawed human being — imagine that — has put Mr. Stephanopoulos on the naughty list at the White House, where, reportedly, his name is not to be spoken in the presence of his former chief, a man who apparently believes that loyalty is an avenue with traffic running in only one direction — toward him.

        The Stephanopoulos book has supplanted the Monica Lewinsky tome at the top of the best-seller list, which some would interpret as a good omen for the future of humankind. It also caused some in the Democratic Party to look at Mr. Stephanopoulos as a potential political candidate himself some day.

        Mr. Stephanopoulos told the Enquirer Friday that it is indeed a possibility, “but not until all of this dies down; if I ran for something now, it would all get swallowed up in Clinton and everything that's happened. But maybe some day.”

        Maybe some day in Ohio. The former White House aide is a Cleveland boy; there are those in Ohio Democratic politics who would not mind seeing a high-profile figure like George Stephanopoulos come back to Ohio and run for the U.S. Senate.

        Ohio has two Republican senators for the first time in a quarter-century in Mike DeWine and George Voinovich.

        Mr. DeWine is up for re-election next year; and, at this point, it is not clear who the Democrats will put up to challenge him. Some say Mary Boyle, the Senate candidate who was steamrollered by Mr. Voinovich last fall. Others say Joel Hyatt, who was whipped by Mr. DeWine in 1994, has the itch again. Ted Strickland, the Democratic congressman from Lucasville, says he is interested, but he is unknown to most of Ohio.

        The fact is, we haven't noticed Mr. DeWine sweating about his re-election lately. At this point, there is no one on the Democratic side who would make him quake with fear.

        The Stephanopoulos candidacy is probably a fantasy, although it would make for an interesting race. And the Republicans would have a hard time using the “carpetbagger” issue on him.

        Unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton, George Stephanopoulos could actually say he had once lived in the state where he is running.

        Howard Wilkinson's column runs Sundays. Call him at 768-8388 or e-mail