Advice for Would-Be Ambassadors

Chatterbox, who prides himself on his perversity, stubbornly remains fixated on the coming battle for the White House rather than the post-Tina struggle within the mind of Si Newhouse. So let’s begin with the bad news: If you are reading this item anywhere but in Nashville, it’s probably too late for you to snag a plum cabinet slot or a cushy ambassadorship in the Gore administration.

This weekend, the vice president will be back home cementing the kind of lasting political friendships that only money can buy. Ostensibly, the festivities like a $500-a-ticket dinner dance at Opryland are designed to raise money for Gore’s leadership PAC. But if you’re gulled by that cover story, Chatterbox bets that you also believe that any day now Bill Clinton will come forward to voluntarily tell the whole truth about Monica Lewinsky.

Shut out on the Gore front, would-be Democratic office-seekers might instead look longingly toward the Greek ruins. Somewhere amid the splendors of classical antiquity is Bill Bradley, who is probably wondering right about now whether Pericles ever had to set up a PAC. Bradley, who began his vacation ramble in Turkey with former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, is reportedly close to a decision to challenge Gore for the Democratic nomination. And, unlike Vice President Malaprop, Bradley is the Democrat least likely ever to confuse Michael Jackson with Michael Jordan. But Chatterbox hears that Bradley recently irritated some of his long-time backers with a maladroit fund-raising letter asking for contributions to pay for his upcoming political travels to listen and learn from the American people. Snapped one Bradley loyalist, “Bill has more money than I do. Let him buy his own airline tickets.”

The Gore high command is convinced that Bradley will run. And the vice president shows no signs of wanting a fair fight. Gore is secretly delighted that all the key primaries will be clustered in a few weeks after New Hampshire, sharply raising the odds against long-shot contenders. Hey, it’s not Gore’s problem that the presidential campaign fund (the $3 checkoff on your tax returns) is almost broke, which means that candidates will not receive the bulk of their matching funds until long after the primaries are over. Neither the vice president nor the toothless Democratic National Committee will lift a finger to try to fix these obvious glitches in the presidential selection process. If the Republicans could rig the system for Bob Dole, why should Gore make life any easier for his Democratic rivals?

So if you want that ambassadorship badly enough, Chatterbox offers this helpful tip: Move to Texas and start sucking up to George W. Bush Jr.

Walter Shapiro