The Flytrap Cure

The Flytrap Cure

The Flytrap Cure

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
April 16 1998 7:59 PM

The Flytrap Cure

Chatterbox sort of likes the idea of a president so desperate to avoid impeachment, to demonstrate that his private behavior doesn't affect his public conduct, that he is driven to an orgy of accomplishment. First, peace in Northern Ireland! Then, a tobacco deal! If Clinton wavers on Social Security reform--well, we can always release a few of Linda Tripp's tapes! ... We know you got that hummer, buddy, so you better fix Medicare while you're at it. Then replenish the ozone layer, democratize China, figure out an efficient way to store electricity, and solve the Four Color Map Problem, and we'll think about keeping you on. ... Finally, a cure for the consitutional problem of second-term lethargy! ...

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Now we know: Today's Washingon Post business section carries a long front-page piece explaining James Johnson's decision to step down as CEO of Fannie Mae. (See Chatterboxes for 4/13 and 4/9). It turns out that although the announcement of Johnson's replacement by Clinton budget director Franklin Raines "surprised many Washington insiders" -- Chatterbox's White House source said it seemed to happen quickly at the last minute--it was really a long-planned "crafted departure" that "culminated a process begun several years ago" when Johnson decided to "limit his tenure with Fannie Mae to a decade." You see, Johnson also believes in "the enormous importance of an orderly succession," and desired a long period of "extended overlap with his successor" to insure "'the smoothest transition possible.'" Plus Raines was ready to go, and they had to snap him up--even though Raines had wanted to stay in government until the Social Security problem was solved. ... That's really all there is too it. A long-planned departure. An orderly succession ... Nothing to do with, say, the brief exit "window"--the interval between the Paula Jones dismissal and the Kenneth Starr report-- during which Clinton officials can leave without looking like rats jumping ship. The Post would have mentioned that if it were a factor. So it must have nothing to do with it. ... Just a smooth transition ...

Almost Everything You Need to Know About Washington in One Quote: In the April 12 Post, Peter Baker reported on White House aides who are annoyed at former chief of staff Leon Panetta for continuing to urge the president to come forward and say what happened between him and Monica Lewinsky. Panetta is contrasted with George Stephanopoulos, the other White House apostate, who has a lucrative ABC News contract. An anonymous White House official tells Baker: "The difference with Leon is some people wonder, 'You're not getting paid for this. Why do you keep doing it?'" ... But if you are getting paid, treason is OK? ... Maybe Panetta is saying it because it's what he thinks about an important issue. .... Nyah. Can't be. ...

Gratuitous Automotive Item: Chtterbox says don't give up your stereotypes of the Japanese as economic super-producers just yet. Consumer Reports just published its Annual Auto Issue, which contains the most useful two-page spread in automotive journalism. These pages (60 and 61) rank the reliability of most new cars sold in America, based on a large reader survey. (Note this is not a ranking of a car's enjoyability--who reads Consumer Reports for that?--only of whether the car is likely to break.) What leaps out from this year's chart is the way Japanese manufacturers have maintained their edge over Detroit's Big Three. The top six makers are still all Japanese, and the very best models--such as the Acura Integra, the Honda Odyssey, the Honda Prelude, the Nissan Maxima. and the Lexus SC300--are still built in Japan itself, not in the Japanese makers' North American plants. ... Like many ancient Volvo-bred yuppies, Chatterbox will believe America is back on top only when Detroit makes a car Chatterbox might actually want to buy. ... O.K., there's one. The Ford SVT Contour. But its reliability is suspect. ...

Another news flash from the Auto Issue concerns the sad performance of the formerly best-selling Ford Taurus since its tragic Gaudi-esque redesign. It's now one of the least-reliable medium sized cars, with 40 percent more problems than average. Hey, it may be ugly, but it doesn't work that good either! ... The Taurus is even sub-Saab---the Saab 900, pilloried in Chatterbox for 3/13, has improved somewhat. It's now only 20 percent worse than average. ... But the award for the most depressing performance goes to [drumroll] GM's new minivans! With 86 percent more problems than average, they're the worst vehicles ranked, except for GM's own Camaro and Firebird V-8s. ... Meanwhile, the wildly attractive Audi A4, contrary to all expectations, may actually be reliable. Consumer Reports ranked it above even the vaunted Toyota Camry (which slipped a bit, but remains 20 percent better than average). ..."Less Gaudi, More Audi," is Chatterbox's new motto. ...

Scariest Quote of the Week:

"Voters in the Generation X pool could care less what role model their president presents. They want someone to help them stop their kids from smoking."

--Dick Morris, former Clinton pollster

You mean they have kids already? Those punks? Chatterbox is feeling ancient indeed. Maybe it's time to plan an orderly succession. ...