HILL OF BEANS: Explore This

Liddy Dole declared her candidacy for president last week. Or rather, she formed an "exploratory committee" to see if there's interest in her running. "Exploratory committees" are one of the great institutional jokes of Washington. No one ever forms one and has the committee members come back to him and say, "Well, Joe, we've asked around, and there really is no interest among the public for having you as president." In fact, by the time exploratory committees get set up, the candidate has usually been running for months, if not years.The first thing out of Liddy's mouth was, "I am not a politician." Oh, sure -- the dozens of media consultants and issues advisers and canvassers that Liddy has been lining up since last fall are doing this on their spare time! I'm not the first one to be skeptical. Mara Liasson has said: "[H]er claim of being an outsider and an anti-establishment candidate is ridiculous." Yes, she's anti-establishment only in the way that Hillary is. If she disrupts the rules of the establishment, it's to show that the perks of belonging to the establishment are much more vast and easily called up than had heretofore been thought.What gives Liddy Dole a claim to be taken seriously as a non-politician is that she has a lightweight dippiness that you don't usually see on the stump, what the Philadelphia Daily News calls a "bubbly spontaneity in crowds that makes Bush, Forbes, Alexander and Quayle look like frozen peas." But in fact, all four of those politicians are considerably more "spontaneous" than Liddy. As a Dole aide told The Washington Post: "She's as tight as the cap on a nuclear hatch." One assumes the aide was talking about her political organizing skills and ability to stay on message. On the other hand, maybe it explains why Bob needs the Viagra so badly.My friend and colleague Tucker Carlson said on CNN the other night, "I mean -- at some point a reporter is going to say, 'What is this all about? What role has erectile dysfunction played in your life?'" He added, "I think it'll probably be me." (But it wasn't, was it, Tuck? You've got to wake up pretty early in the morning to scoop "Hill of Beans"!)Lamar Alexander also announced last week, with the extraordinary addendum that this will be his last run for president. Well, this one has only been going on for eight or nine years. There's a real hope-springs-eternal aspect to the Lamah! campaign that was well embodied by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who's chairing Alexander's Iowa effort: "If we can pull off a big upset victory over George Bush in Iowa," Branstad says, "it's a whole new ballgame." For that matter, if Jerry Nadler wins next year's Miss America contest, there's nothing in showbiz he can't do.

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