Sunday, October 08, 2000

CROWLEY: Spin cycle

Debate awash in agendas

        DANVILLE, Ky. - Kiki McClean.

        Does that name mean anything to you? It didn't to me, even though there was a young man toting a sign around the media center at last week's vice presidential debate with “KIKI McCLEAN” written in big black letters.

        Turns out Ms. McClean is the spokeswoman for Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman. I should have known that. After all, I'm a political writer. But, hey, it's a month until Election Day. At this point in the campaign cycle I'm lucky to remember my kids' names.

        The reason Kiki was trolling around the gym at Centre College — makeshift home to the several hundred, frantic, deadline-driven reporters covering Thursday night's debate — was she wanted to offer her perspective, make that spin, on the debate.

        I didn't talk to Ms. McClean for the following reasons:

        • I didn't know Kiki McClean from Kiki Vandeweghe, a former pro basketball player, as I've already admitted.

        • I'm no George Will, but I'm guessing that Kiki was going to gush over her boss' performance.

        • Kiki was small potatoes compared with the other folks walking around with their names on signs: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle; Georgia Congressman John Lewis; Cincinnati Congressman Rob Portman; former Sen. John Glenn; Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning; Gore campaign manager Bill Daley; Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes; Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson; Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd; Republican governors John Engler of Michigan and Frank Keating of Oklahoma; and plenty more.

        Darn near every political hitter in the country in one place, at one time, begging to be interviewed and not even coming close to uttering “No comment.”

        Still, it was strange.

        I've seen some weird things in this gig — from everything pro-marijuana candidate Gatewood Galbraith does, to a press release from state Senate candidate John Stephenson about his wife's recent surgery with the words “rectum” and “fecal matter” highlighted.

        Yet witnessing a full-fledged attack of spin was something to behold.

        A Maytag would be put to shame. The cyclone that sent little Dorothy to Kansas looked like a summer breeze compared with the hot air swirling around that gym. I thought the reporters — no slouches when it comes to whipping up some BS — were going to take cover under their chairs for fear of flying objects.

        You knew what to expect. The Democratic surrogates were going to say Mr. Lieberman won; the Republicans would give the win to Mr. Cheney.

        In a way it was great. I've never tried to call Mr. Daley, but I imagine it might be tough to reach him, given that he is running a presidential campaign.

        But heck, down at the Centre College gym I talked to him at least three times and walked past him a dozen more.

        Not that access wasn't appreciated, but most of the reporters were on deadline and at one point I thought I was going to have to bash Mr. Daschle in the melon because he wouldn't move away from my computer.

        But I just waited a moment and eventually he just twisted away.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or by e-mail at


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