IF YOU WANT A FRIEND in Washington, Harry Truman once said, get a dog.
The way things are going in the White House, we're surprised that even Buddy, President Clinton's chocolate Labrador retriever, is still talking to him.Maybe it's meant to illustrate the "dog house" that Clinton finds himself in since confessing his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but there's hardly a public picture of the president these days in which he isn't accompanied by his canine companion. And since Buddy isn't subject to Ken Starr's subpoena power, he may be the only one left to whom Clinton can pour his heart out.
He sure doesn't have many friends left on Capitol Hill.
As investors were panicking on Wall Street, a similar frenzy was setting in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It began quietly: A major Democratic Party contributor renounced his pledge of $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee - which helps the president - and instead opted to give his dough to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which only helps House Democrats.
Days later, several Democratic candidates announced that they'd rather do without Clinton's help on the campaign trail. Not that it will make much of a difference. Pollsters and analysts are predicting huge gains for Republicans - who just months ago were worried about losing their fragile majority in the House.
But things would get worse. Ever since Clinton's Aug. 17 non-confession, White House officials had held their breath waiting for reaction from Capitol Hill. Since most lawmakers were out of town when Clinton gave his televised address, it was slow in coming.
Only an obscure Democrat, Rep. Paul McHale of Pennsylvania, has gone as far as suggesting that the president resign. Others, like House Minority Leader Richard M. Gephardt, D-Mo., raised the possibility of impeachment and expressed their grave dis-ap-point-ment.
More telling than the comments from Gephardt was the list of those who said nothing. Most prominent were three early and active Clinton supporters - Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.; and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
But when Lieberman took to the Senate floor last week to denounce Clinton, everything changed. The floodgates had opened, and Democrats couldn't wait to tell the voters how awfully disappointed they were in the chief executive. After sitting by like piano players in a brothel for seven months, lawmakers were shocked - shocked! - to learn that Clinton had been unfaithful to his wife. This may have been the most obvious whodunit since the O.J. Simpson affair, but it still seemed like news to Clinton's cronies on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, in room H-2186 of the Ford building, just steps from the Capitol, Ken Starr's long-awaited report sits, filled with the results of four years' and more than $40 million worth of investigative might. The room will be kept secure, opened only to members of the Judiciary Committee, as a means of preventing leaks.
If tradition holds, the exercise will prove futile - and pointless. The damage has already been done. The details are sure to leak, if not immediately then before the November elections. Already Washington is rife with rumors about the salacious details included in the report.
At least the president will still have Buddy.
DUMBEST ENDORSEMENT - Sometime in the next week, the House will pass a bill that members of Congress will no doubt tout as a "common-sense" way to aid law enforcement. The bill will allow anyone who has a concealed weapons permit - now available in 29 states - to carry their weapons to any other state with a similar law.
Originally conceived as a way to help police officers take their off-duty weapons with them when they travel out of state, the bill was later expanded to include not just officers, but everyone else as well.
At first glance, this reciprocity arrangement does seem like common sense. But all concealed-carry laws aren't the same. Some states, like Texas, have strict requirements for anyone wishing to carry a concealed weapon. Other states don't even require the permit-holder to be a resident.
Ask Republicans about this bill and they'll quickly mention that it was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, which normally opposes the NRA's efforts to weaken gun laws.
We understand the FOP's desire to allow its members to carry guns across state lines. But someone please explain to us how police officers will benefit from a law allowing 3 million people to carry concealed handguns across the country - even in states with strict standards of background checks, safety training and residency requirements.