Hamptons beach-chatter rides the waves on Washington politics

The Baltimore Sun

T.S. ELIOT's J. Alfred Prufrock would have had to deal with more questions and philosophies over last Labor Day than wondering whether he should wear his trousers rolled.

If he'd been near the Long Island beaches where I was, he'd have heard that Hillary Clinton couldn't win the presidential election and then that she is the only one who can! ... That Rudy Giuliani is considered a bad man and an erratic personality by many, but that he would make the best administrator executor of all the candidates. ... And that Michael Bloomberg would be even better as chief executive, though he seems to shoot himself in the foot with self-denial and putting himself down by saying that he couldn't win if he ran. (Many think he still wants to run for president and probably will.) ... That Idaho's beleaguered "family values" Sen. Larry Craig has become merely a dirty joke; fair or not. ... That the best gossip these days comes out of Washington; not New York or Hollywood. ... That we were in a haut Hamptons atmosphere where nobody mentioned Britney Spears, Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan.

Here's the type of discourse: I sat with a newspaper publisher who told me Forbes naming Condoleezza Rice the No. 4 "most powerful woman in the world" is "utterly ridiculous" since "she doesn't know what she is doing." The very next day The New York Times (of which he is not the publisher) put on its front page a story that the secretary of state's reputation is now so tarnished that schools of higher education want nothing to do with her despite the prestige of her title. It was a Labor Day holiday filled with prescient and contradictory thoughts.

Brit's non-comeback

Britney Spears seemed awkward and sadly out-of-practice Sunday at the MTV Video Music Awards, but this tentative "comeback" isn't indicative of her future as a pop star -- her live performing skills have never been lauded, anyway. Spears' outfit was very unflattering, but enough already with dissing her body. After two pregnancies she looks fine. Just not onstage-in-a-bikini fine! She needs help from fashion expert Tim Gunn!

At the Pure nightclub post-party, the host, Sean Combs, observed Britney and her posse dance atop the booths of her VIP cage. He commented, "She's a sweet girl who needs some respect." (That the music mogul was moved to actually say something nice about this beleaguered girl puts him in my good books for a long time to come.)

Combs also checked on what Spears imbibed. She seemed to be sticking to unspiked energy drinks. "I'm watching; no drinking," he said like a concerned big brother.

Ivins remembered

I had the privilege this week of being locked in a West Side recording studio from dawn to dusk with the ghost of the great liberal columnist and uber Texan, Molly Ivins, who died last January of breast cancer.

Random House had me doing the voice for Molly's last book, Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault on America's Fundamental Rights, written with Lou Dubose. It was an honor to present Molly's Texas twang.

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