NEW HAMPSHIRE WEEKLY / POLITICAL DIARY / LAURA A. KIERNAN
At Rivier, underdog makes low-key visit
By Laura A. Kiernan, May 16, 1999
You want your politics unusual? Picture this.
It's a tranquil morning at Rivier College in Nashua and Democratic
presidential candidate Bill Bradley, very much at ease, is seated alongside
Sister Lucille Thibodeau, the college president. Nuns in habit, priests and
ministers, a rabbi, students and faculty made up a small, invitation-only
audience. At a briefing with his staff the night before, Bradley was wary of
having any reporters and cameras in the room -- but this is after all a
presidential campaign. So the media types were politely asked to keep their
intrusive presence to a minimum, and they complied.
Then Bradley began a discussion with his audience about "finding some
meaning in life that's deeper than the material." That's right. And it
clicked. The Rhodes Scholar/basketball star/ former US senator talked about
his idea that politics shouldn't be about polls, money, and spin, but about
service. He heard from the audience about the need for more community
volunteers, the plight of working parents and their children, getting at the
core problems in our inner cities. Sister Thibodeau, a confessed idealist, was
Bradley "is telling us something we need to hear about this time, about
changing our course," she said. "The man has a common touch," she added,
"a real draw to ordinary people."
Bradley's staff says the candidate wants these small meetings -- which are
not open to the public -- because he believes they better prepare him to lead
the country. He told his audience at Rivier that he didn't want "to take the
spotlight" but wanted to focus on the efforts of ordinary Americans. Gee,
what an oddball philosophy in a business full of egomaniacs. No bunting, not a
single "Bradley for President" sign, no stump speech this time. But what
about getting yourself elected?
It came to Bradley almost as an afterthought. "By the way, I am
running," he said with a smile as he reluctantly prepared to leave. "I hope
you will become involved in our effort now that you have a sense of part of
what it is about."
A Navy man takes his case to the Army
They toasted the "office of commander in chief" (and you'd better believe
they mean to honor only the office and not its current holder), their brides,
the Army, and the Corps of Cadets. And then, the West Point Society of New
Hampshire sat down at its Founders Day dinner last week to hear from a Navy
man, US Senator John McCain of Arizona, Republican candidate for president.
For his part, McCain, a fighter pilot shot down in Vietnam who spent five
years as a POW, said he was ready to take "questions, comments or insults"
from this assembly of Army alums. The only slight came when more than one
member of the long gray line called out: "Go Army! Beat Navy!" (They say
that a lot).
Behind the scenes, some sound advice
Perhaps the most powerful man in all of New Hampshire politics was standing
in the back of the room during McCain's appearance -- Bob Molloy, a familiar
figure in a flashy red baseball cap. For 22 years, Molloy and his crew have
been the ones setting up the microphones and speakers at an endless number of
Molloy has stayed on the job even though his wife won Megabucks a year ago
for more than $2 million. He has made one "executive decision" since hitting
the jackpot -- no more middle-of-the-night gigs with campaign advance teams
trying to get the next day's sound in place.
He says he doesn't have a favorite candidate and doesn't plan on picking
one. "All I care is that when you step up to the microphone, something comes
out," Molloy said.
McCain talks tough on Kosovo, defense
In what was obviously a made-for-McCain audience, the candidate talked
about the NATO bombing of Kosovo and the need for a "victory" (his blunt
talk on the subject has kept his media visibility very high) and the need to
spend more money on defense. The mood was all duty, honor, and country, which,
and in the aftermath of the Monica muck, is what gives the straight-talking
McCain his appeal.
In what must be a first on the list of "tokens of appreciation," McCain
was given a cadet-issue US Army bathrobe (thousands of bathrobe bets are
placed on the Army-Navy game) and a bronze arrow stolen in 1956 by the Army
track team from a statue at the Naval Academy. Then he was off to New York
City, for meetings with Henry Kissinger and mega rich Omaha investor Warren
Buffet, a Democrat who supports campaign finance reform, one of McCain's
One of the organizers of the West Point Society event was Concord lawyer
Jim Steiner (Class of 1978), who was co-chairman of the draft Colin Powell
effort in New Hampshire in 1996. Steiner, a Republican, is a former member of
the state Board of Education (1996-98) and, he says, he's thinking over
running for governor. Meanwhile, Mccain will be back in New Hampshire, at
Steiner's Concord home, on Memorial Day weekend.
Gore due to visit state on Saturday
Vice President Al Gore will be in New Hampshire Saturday night for the
Hlllsborough County Democrats dinner at St. George's Greek Church in
Manchester. In the morning, he will be the commencement speaker at the
University New Hampshire in Durham. And it's official: Veteran campaign aide
Nick Baldick will direct the Gore 2000 operation in New Hampshire.
New Net site offers inside information
Attention political junkies and the just plain interested. Two very
energetic graduates of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government have set up a
new Web site called PoliticalInsider.com, which will give you a daily dose of
political news and gossip from sources around the country -- and it's free.
Based in New York, Chris Riback and Taegan Goddard are up every morning at
dawn, scanning the Internet and picking newspaper stories for their page,
which is up by 8:30 a.m.
Most important in these days of Internet overload, PoliticalInsider .com is
not a dumping ground for just anything political: Riback and Goddard are
actually combing through stuff, picking what's hot and relevent -- and
factual. "We're striving to be the most accurate, anti-Matt Drudge source of
political information out there," said Goddard.
Thayer to head Smith campaign
Judy Thayer, who had a tumultuous tenure as chairwoman of the state Board
of Education from 1986 to 1992, has been named chairwoman of US Senator Bob
Smith's presidential campaign. Kevin Smith (no relation to the senator) will
be the campaign's field director, and Barabara Hagan, former president of the
New Hampshire Right to Life committee, will run Smith's Manchester campaign
Ignoring tax pledge may pay off in end
Yogurt maker Gary Hirshberg has been taking a lot of heat since he
announced formation of his Courage and Leadership PAC, which will raise money
for candidates who promise not to take the anti-tax pledge. Various
legislators whined in public because they weren't included on a list of
lawmakers who will be honored at the PAC's fund-raising kickoff Friday night.
In what many people consider a badge of honor, Hirshberg even got himself
charicatured in a Bob Dix cartoon on the editorial page of the Union Leader of
Manchester. "I figure I have arrived," Hirshberg said.
Hirshberg says all the attention has been good for the cause. Moreover, the
howls of protest prove it is money that talks in politics, and that's exactly
why Hirshberg set up a fund-raising PAC instead of holding just another press
conference. "We hit a nerve," he said.
Buchanan to open Manchester office
Pat Buchanan and his wife, Shelley, will be in Manchester today to mark the
opening of his campaign office at 788 Elm St. And the campaign has named a
field director -- 20-year-old Luke Freudenberg of Wolfeboro. A political
science student at Loyola University in New Orleans, Freudenberg has taken a
year off for the job. "Whether you agree with Pat of not he speaks his
mind," Freudenberg says, and he says he agrees with him on most issues,
especially protecting American workers. Veteran political activist Shelly
Uscinski is running Buchanan's New Hampshire operation.
There's an effort underway to save Robie's Country Store in Hooksett. Until
it shut down in 1997, after 110 years of operation by the Robie family, the
store was the ultimate photo-op for presidential candidates seeking a
small-town America backdrop. Now, a group including New Hampshire College
president Richard Gustafson, state Representative David Hess, a Hooksett
Republican, and TV host and businessman Don Rondeau has been organized to
raise $200,000 to buy the place and restore it as a museum . . . And, lest we
forget, Texas Governor George W. Bush will be at the Center of New Hampshire
on June 14 for the Lilac Luncheon sponsored by the New Hampshire Federation of
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