D.C. Talkers: Most Likely to Make News

Mar 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Leading Vote-Getter

President Bush’s first-term National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was hazed about the war in Iraq before being confirmed by the Senate as secretary of state. Her new position makes her even more of an administration spokesperson-and thus newsmaker-than she was previously.

It’s also a position in which she seems to be blossoming. Her relationship with President Bush continues to be strong. Her sense of self seems stronger than ever-her choice of stiletto-heeled, knee-high boots and “Matrix”-style coat to inspect troops in Europe on her eight-nation trip in February inspired a pop psychology riff by a Washington Post fashion writer, who declared it the ultimate power wardrobe accessorized by sexual frisson.

Respondents’ comments included: “She has made a flawless transition.” “She’s enjoying herself more. She has been freed and is stepping up to the challenge.” “You understand what she is saying. She is a great presence on TV.” “She’s off to a good start, diplomatically. And she’s a babe.”

Also mentioned: President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (“He always has a great sound bite”).

2004 Most Likely to Make News: Vice President Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.


Leading Vote-Getter

President Bush remains the most elusive quarry for newsmaker shows. He also is the most sought-after. Whatever he says is guaranteed to make headlines as soon as he starts talking. To book the president is, in the word of one newsmaker-show veteran, Sunday morning “Bingo.”

Also mentioned: Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff, senior adviser and assistant to the president. These two members of the president’s brain trust are almost as hard to book on a newsmaker show as their boss. But even though they “play hard to get, I think you see them more than they’d like to think.” Mr. Rove “usually only comes out to do interviews close to an election.” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton. (“They manage themselves well.”) Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. CIA Director Porter Goss, who was a Republican congressman from Florida. (“He is invisible. He is a former spook. He’s got his sea legs back.”) California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. After a splashy campaign, the actor-turned-politician has made only two national newsmaker appearances since being elected in November 2003: last winter on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and last month on ABC’s “This Week.” New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has taken high-profile aim at Wall Street baddies and who has political aspirations. (“Everybody wants him. No one can get him.”) British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (“He’s in this country only a few times a year.”)

2004 Hardest to Get: Vice President Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.


Leading Vote-Getters

A tie between Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Sen. Kerry has “always been high-maintenance. He has always had scheduling ‘difficulties.'” Mr. Rumsfeld arrives “at the last minute, overstaffed, overproduced and over-advanced.”

Also mentioned: Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, the famously imperious former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and “any senator who’s trying to squeeze us in between church and brunch.”

2004 Highest-Maintenance: Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.


Leading Vote-Getter

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who also qualifies as a great comeback story. His 32 years in the Senate have been a bit of a roller coaster. Sen. Biden has survived a 1987 scandal in which he was accused of plagiarizing portions of his stump speeches, a 1988 brain aneurysm, a hair-transplant process and dashed dreams of being president. He has evolved into a knowledgeable spokesman on key issues for D.C. Democrats. That, and renewed speculation about bigger political possibilities and a more telegenic head of hair, make him much in demand by newsmaker shows. That inevitably leads to overexposure. (“Three weeks out of four, he’s out [making TV appearances].” “He’s good.” “[The reinvention] is quite interesting.” “He is the last expert on foreign policy among the Democrats in the Senate.”)

Also mentioned: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (“He’s overexposed because we love him. We love him because he’s willing to say what he thinks.” “He always gives you something. He has done himself a lot of good.”) Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who was frequently seen when the war in Iraq was regularly a front-burner issue for newsmaker shows. Spokespeople for the political parties. (“People like to pair them a lot. They were out a lot last year.”)

2004 Most Overexposed: Sen. Hagel and Sen. Biden.


Leading Vote-Getter

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is a perennial winner of this dubious distinction. However, some see him trying to correct the image by keeping a lower profile. (“He’s trying to be more senatorial. He has figured it out.” “I think people are finally realizing that you don’t always get on. [Drumming up bookings] can be counterproductive.”)

Also mentioned: “Any congressman just back from a fact-finding mission to an area in which they could have been shot at. They called before they went, to gauge interest. They call while they’re there.” Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who is regarded as forever being eager to be a party statesman/spokesman and potential candidate.

This category did not appear last year.


Leading Vote-Getter

Defeated presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, who made his first major TV appearance since the election in November on “Meet the Press” Jan. 30 and receded once again.

Also mentioned: Former Democratic vice presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards, who talked Feb. 20 on “This Week” about his civilian agenda. He is making public appearances, according to the Web site for the One America Committee, which says a goal of Mr. Edwards is “helping elect Democratic candidates across the country. But inside the Beltway, he is ‘gone, gone, gone.'” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Condoleezza Rice’s predecessor was well-liked in newsmaker show circles, and he is missed. Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. The former lost his re-election bid in 2004. The latter’s highest-profile role of late was as chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and as an emcee of President Bush’s second inauguration.

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Leading Vote-Getter

First lady Laura Bush, like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, seems to have blossomed since the election into a sleeker, more fashionable, more public and more assured version of her first-term self. (“All of a sudden, it is her world.” “She definitely has started making more news. She is fascinating. People want to hear from her. She is incredibly popular.”)

Also mentioned: Former Clinton adviser Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. (“He really is good at getting himself out there. He’s really a presence now.” “He’s sort of the youngest, newest person out there.” “You know what Rahm is up to.”) Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who nearly talked himself out of the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee by ticking off Republican conservatives with his declaration that judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade were unlikely to be confirmed by the Senate. (“They were going to get rid of him. Now he’s toeing the line.”) His recent diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease earns him empathy.

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No Top Vote-Getter

Mentioned: Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. (“He says more behind the scenes than on TV.”) White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. (“There is not a time we’ve put him on that he’s made news.”) Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nominated as a symbol of the limited “ability” of people on Capitol Hill to make news. And “roundtables and panels of experts.”

2004 Least Likely to Make News: Then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.


Leading Vote-Getter

Howard Dean, who has gone from front-running grass-roots presidential candidate to flame-out and late-night monologue staple to chairman of the Democratic National Committee in one short year. Since being voted party leader in mid-February, he has-wisely, say D.C. types-avoided the newsmaker show circuit. How long before his scream scene is forgotten? It depends on whom you ask. (“You have to give him another month or so.” “It’s going to take a while to live that down.” “There will be a recording of it interred in his tombstone.”)

Also mentioned: President Clinton. The outpouring of public interest and ink after his heart scare last year and his review-proof best-selling memoir prove Mr. Clinton still has it as the Comeback Kid. (“That’s a good story. He’s been sick. He’s really busy. He’s hard to get. The less [TV] you do, the more people want you.”)

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Leading Vote-Getters

Former Presidents Bush and Clinton. In Washington, their body language strongly suggests that in a couple of months, the former foes’ relationship has developed into a buddy system on the road to raising and shepherding American contributions to tsunami relief. (“You can tell how much they enjoy being around each other. It’s not only an odd [pairing], but it has worked incredibly well.” “If you were a fly on the wall, you wanted to be inside the plane on the first trip to tsunami country.”)

Also mentioned: Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. He was one of the fiercest conservative prosecutors during her husband’s impeachment in 1998. She has been seen as a very liberal Democrat who can be picky about whom she is willing to appear with on TV. Both gain humanity and a centrist aura and perhaps even some crossover appeal from this relationship that has evolved while they serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee. (“They share a common interest in trying to solve a real problem.” “They’re quite close.” “They’re good together.”) Don Imus and MSNBC President Rick Kaplan, who convinced the cantankerous Mr. Imus to take their TV relationship to the next level by moving his radio show, simulcast on MSNBC, to the MSNBC studio in Secaucus, N.J.

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Leading Vote-Getter

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. There are few subjects on which he is not knowledgeable and willing to speak straightforwardly.

Also mentioned: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. (She is less accessible and less fearless than Sen. McCain, but she is regarded as extremely knowledgeable on a wide variety of issues.) Nixon administration Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (“He has cachet, a well-known name and can talk about a wide range of issues.”)

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Leading Vote-Getter

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. A compelling speaker with a personal history that resonates with many Americans, he was the darling of the Democratic National Convention-and the media-last summer. But he is getting high marks for keeping his head down and his eyes on the real prize in Washington. (“He’s a very interesting person.” “He’s trying to make his mark, but he also knows he was in risk [coming out of the Democratic convention] of becoming overexposed. He’s going to have to prove himself. That will happen.” “The first thing you’ve got to do is be accepted in the club.”)

Also mentioned: Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. (“He doesn’t give a s**t. As he says: ‘I’m vested.’ He is not embarrassed about being a liberal Democrat.”) Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. (“He just doesn’t bulls**t.”) Counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke. After serving in both Bush administrations, the Reagan administration and the Clinton administration, he’s a knowledgeable, deadpan “Dr. Gloom.” (“Every time he speaks, you feel as if you should write it down and go buy a gun or a gas mask.”)

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No Top Vote-Getter

Mentioned: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. (“Mean.”) Rep. J.D. Hayworth,

R-Ariz. (“He’s mesmerized by himself.”) Former Clinton adviser Rep. Rahm Emanuel. (“Gawd almighty.” “He’s full of himself.

He lacks sincerity.”)

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