By E.J. Kessler

Published July 11, 2003, issue of July 11, 2003.
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Presidential Players: The Boston Globe’s seven-part series of articles on the life of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is so voluminous and detailed that it practically constitutes the screenplay for a multi-part television docudrama, a reporter and two political types decided over beers last week.

The drinkers — there was a Kerry supporter among them — agreed that Josh Hartnett would be an interesting choice to play the young Kerry in such a miniseries. The young heartthrob has the requisite experience playing war heroes (“Pearl Harbor”) and, of course, the requisite luxuriant head of dark hair.

Their thought leads us to suggest some other actors for some other imaginary Democratic presidential contender bio-pics. To play the young Howard Dean: Matt Damon (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”). The young Hadassah Lieberman: “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow. The young North Carolina Senator John Edwards: John Edwards (the guy is, let’s face it, as handsome as a movie star). But who would be a good actor to play the young Joe Lieberman? That stumped us. So we turned to Lieberman spokesman Jano Cabrera. “Oh, I don’t know. Possibly Tobey McGuire of ‘Spiderman’ fame,” Cabrera said. “Like Lieberman, he initially comes across as just an all around nice, wholesome guy but in reality he has a bit of an edge, and folks who underestimate that often find themselves ensnared.”

* * *

Recall Rancor: In California, the forces that are trying to stop the recall of the state’s Democratic governor, Gray Davis, are taking a new tack in their effort to paint the recall’s main sponsor, Rep. Darrell Issa, as an extremist: They’re trying to link him to Nazi sympathizers.

Issa, a San Diego Republican who has given the recall movement about $1 million of his own money, is using the effort as a platform to launch a campaign for governor, and so, he has become a lightning rod for the pro-Davis forces.

According to a report in The Sacramento Bee, Democratic operatives last week played reporters a video that was taped during Issa’s unsuccessful 1998 run for Senate. The video showed that Issa’s campaign had set up a table at a Southern California gun show where at least one other exhibit displayed a flag with a swastika. Nothing in the video, however, showed any interaction between the Issa supporters and the Nazi paraphernalia exhibitors, the report said.

Even so, Carroll Wills, a spokesman for the main anti-recall group, Taxpayers Against the Recall, told the Bee, “I think that there are an awful lot of politicians who would eschew the idea of participating in any event where that type of flag is shown.”

An Issa spokesman, Jonathan Wilcox, for his part, called the Democrats’ video “a crude tactic and gutter politics.”

The press conference, whose ostensible purpose was to highlight Issa’s pro-gun stance, is only the latest Democratic attempt to link the congressman to extremist groups. Two weeks ago in the Forward, another spokesman for Taxpayers Against the Recall scored Issa — who is of Lebanese descent and who has engaged in informal Middle East diplomacy — for his supposed ties to Yasser Arafat and Hezbollah. An indignant Issa responded to the Forward that he is “a friend of Israel,” and a Democratic congressman backed him up.

The gun show-related press conference got poor reviews in the Golden State. “Gunning for Issa, Davis Stoops to New Low,” read a headline in Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub’s Web log, “California Insider.”

Pro-Davis forces have had more luck pointing out Issa’s early brushes with the law. Papers in California have been filled with stories about how Issa was arrested in the early 1970s on illegal-weapons and auto-theft charges, most of which were dropped. One misdemeanor gun conviction resulted in a $100 fine and three months probation, reports said.

The recall effort’s supporters announced last week that they had enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

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