The senator didn't have much time. The governor was on his way, for one thing, and with barely more than a week before summer recess and a Judiciary Committee to run, there was more than plenty to do.

But I didn't need much time. They told me I had 20 minutes. More than enough.I just wanted to ask the senior senator from Utah, the honorable Orrin G. Hatch, one question:

Will he run for President of the United States in the year 2000?

A year from now, will we see "Hatch, Natch" campaign buttons, or "Roarin' for Orrin"?

Will he win and turn all of Arkansas into a national park?

It is not a question without mounting speculation behind it. Rumors talk. There are supposedly well-placed Republicans pushing the Hatch for president train. In that very morning's USA Today, Larry King wrote, "Don't be surprised if Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, enters the presidential sweepstakes."

You know how it is. People love to talk about anything but their real business. Get Mark McGwire alone and think he'll talk about home runs? Karl Malone might throw a chair at you if you try to talk basketball, but he'll talk into the night about the WWF. Get an hour alone in the Oval Office with Bill Clinton, and do you think he's going to want to talk politics?

Orrin Hatch responded to the Larry King blurb by pulling out . . . his latest CD.

"Have you heard this?" he asked.

The senator loves to write songs. When he can't sleep, worrying about the Supreme Court or about Microsoft, that's what he does. Writes songs. He has written probably 300 songs in his life, most of them having to do with love or patriotism or spirituality. Now, several of those songs have been published on four CDs, with more out hopefully before Christmas, including two songs sung by soul icon Gladys Knight. Which technically makes Orrin Hatch a pip.

Is he proud of his collaboration with Gladys Knight? Is James Cameron proud of "Titanic"?

It may be possible to walk into Orrin Hatch's office and not hear a selection off one of his CDs but probably not.

Paul Newman walked in the other day to say hi. Heard one. Sigourney Weaver. Same thing. Rita Moreno, the only human in history who has on her mantle a Grammy, an Emmy, a Tony and an Oscar, came by a few weeks ago, and the next thing she knows, she's hearing Gladys Knight do "Like a River." Lyrics by Orrin G. Hatch.

There is a senatorial sound system just in back of the senatorial desk, and the senator is not bashful about turning it up loud. Who's going to complain?

Nobody plays them like those who wrote them.

He plays "Heal Our Land" - a song Sanita Jackson (Jesse's daughter) has sung at Washington's Congressional Flag Day concert the last two years in a row. Or "Many Different Roads," which was written in the aftermath of the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.

Sometimes he'll lead off with "Souls Along the Way," the song he wrote for Ted Kennedy and Victoria Kelly on their anniversary.

He's currently working on "The Locket," a song he's writing in conjunction with the upcoming Richard Paul ("Christmas Box") Evans book of the same name.

And speaking of books, if you've got another minute, Hatch might show you the manuscripts for two novels he hopes to publish, one about a lawyer named "Bump" who challenges the Supreme Court and another about Arab terrorists trying to blow up Israel and the world.

The 20 minutes are up. Way up. In the outer office, the governor and his entourage are getting impatient. Is that music coming from in there?

A smiling Hatch turns down the volume, but leaves the CD in place. We've got to do more of this, he says. But he's running late. And this filibuster is over.