By E.J. Kessler

Published May 02, 2003, issue of May 02, 2003.
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When CNN military analyst Wesley Clark — a former general who is often mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate — took a new job recently as chairman of the board of WaveCrest Laboratories, pundits pronounced him out of the political game. Not quite. The post just might help build Clark’s credentials among environmentalists. WaveCrest produces an electric motor that some hope will replace the internal combustion engine, revolutionizing transport by decreasing America’s dependence on fossil fuels. “I believe this technology will make WaveCrest motors the propulsion of choice for the 21st century, leading to a new generation of vehicles with superior operating characteristics and creating a legacy of environmental responsibility,” Clark said in a news release. The post will take up about a quarter of Clark’s time, according to an associate.

* * *

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, created a stir last week when she lashed out at the remark of an anonymous Republican official who said that her husband “looks French.”

“They’ll probably say he’s French, he’s Jewish… he’s a monkey. I just find it sad,” she said, according to press accounts. That response caused National Review’s Jay Nordlinger — and one Jewish Democratic political observer, who didn’t want to go on the record — to take offense. “Whoa, whoa: Jewish? Monkey?” Nordlinger wrote, adding, “The Democrats had an actual Jew on the ticket in 2000. I don’t recall my party going all brownshirt on him. And where did ‘monkey’ come from?”

Heinz Kerry’s spokeswoman, Chris Black, fired back. “She would be shocked that anyone would misconstrue what she said,” Black told the Forward. “It was whatever came into her head…. She was riffing on names.”

“Ask the people taking offense what they think she meant,” Black added, accusing them of “trying to distort” Heinz Kerry’s meaning and “making mischief.” As for “monkey,” it’s a term of teasing Heinz Kerry trades with her grandchildren. Think “Curious George.”

* * *

Here are some more notable names from the Democratic presidential candidates’ first-quarter filings. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean counts among his contributors playwright Jon Robin Baitz; New York Times scribe Janet Maslin; Sarah Ehrman, one of the Clinton administration’s chief operatives in the Jewish community; nutrition guru Dean Ornish; Jonathan Tisch and Laurie Tisch Sussman of the billionaire Tisch clan; several California Swigs; lawyer-novelist Scott Turow, and perhaps most interestingly, billionaire financier George Soros, a champion of many liberal causes, including the repeal of criminal laws against drug use. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman won the favor of “Will & Grace” star Deborah Messing, who held a fundraiser for him at her home. “She’s stunning,” gushed Lieberman spokesman Jano Cabrera. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich snagged a contribution from actor Peter Coyote, a former member of the 1960s San Francisco anarchist group the Diggers who figures in the new history of the Grateful Dead, “A Long Strange Trip.”

* * *

Conservative Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, embattled by the efforts of American Islamists and their supporters to derail his nomination to the board of the United States Institute for Peace, is not shrinking from controversy. Pipes is offering some political advice to New York Governor George Pataki, who is trying to balance a budget that is about $12 billion in the red. Pataki, who is seeking to burnish his conservative credentials by cutting government services rather than raising taxes, recently accepted an offer of help from conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist — a foe of Pipes who has introduced prominent Islamists to President Bush. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, pledged to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on mailings and ads to support Pataki’s veto of proposed tax increases. “I would tell Pataki to stay away from working with Grover Norquist,” Pipes told the Forward. “It’s not a good idea…. Years ago I made [Norquist] an offer: If he doesn’t talk publicly about Islam, I wouldn’t talk publicly about taxation, an offer he declined to take up. What he’s saying about Islam discredits his work more broadly.”

* * *

The New York State Democratic Committee is hiring a crack advocate to spearhead its battle against a proposed 2003 ballot referendum calling for “non-partisan” elections in New York City — a prime party bugaboo that just happens to be the pet initiative of the Big Apple’s Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The Democrats have hired Howard Wolfson, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and communications director for the campaigns of Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, to run their campaign against the proposal. Wolfson just opened a New York office of the Washington communications firm Glover Park Group in the Chrysler Building. “We think it’s important not to allow Mayor Bloomberg to create confusion in the Democratic Party by hiding the party affiliation of candidates running,” New York state party chief Herman “Denny” Farrell told the Forward. “We will be working to make sure the people will vote against his ballot proposal.”

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