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Jewish World Review May 2, 2003 / 30 Nisan, 5763

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Gary Hart still can't get his story correct | Since I am a little less fascinated with Gary Hart than Gary Hart is, I had not planned on writing about him again so soon.

But on Sunday, the Dallas Morning News printed an interview with Hart in which Hart attempts to rewrite his past.

There is a curious disconnect between Hart's supporters and Hart when it comes to his past, by the way. While Hart's supporters don't want to think about Hart's past, Hart is obsessed with it. Or, more particularly, with revising it.

Rena Pederson, editor at large and former editorial page editor of the Morning News, did a serious and substantive interview with Hart and quoted him about national security, the economy, globalization, interest rates, tax cuts, etc.

Pederson also asked him about "those tabloid photos of Donna Rice sitting on his lap while his wife, Lee, was back home in Colorado."

Hart said most people tell him they are tired of hearing about it.

"Since the subject was on the table, however, he insisted he never actually dared reporters to follow him," Pederson wrote. "He only had suggested to reporter E.J. Dionne that, as a sitting U.S. senator, he had nothing to hide and invited the journalist to travel with him on his presidential campaign."

One wonders why Hart brought this up -- even "insisted" on it -- considering it is not the truth.

Here is what E.J. Dionne, then the chief national political correspondent of The New York Times, wrote in the Time's Sunday magazine on May 3, 1987.

"Follow me around. I don't care," he (Hart) says firmly, about the womanizing question. "I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'd be very bored."

Is this Hart inviting Dionne alone to travel on the presidential campaign with him, or is he inviting "anybody" to "put a tail on me"?

Now, here is a third version, the version Hart told me in a lengthy, tape-recorded interview that I conducted with him in 1988 and which appears in my book "Road Show."

"'People say, 'You brought it on yourself,'' Hart said. 'I didn't bring it on myself. ... Other candidates' campaigns were starting rumors about my personal life and so on. So reporters started saying, 'What about these rumors?' And then I was in the business of responding to rumors. And finally, the rumor-rumor-rumor got to the point -- in frustration, I said, look, follow me around. I obviously didn't mean into my house. I meant into restaurants, in public places and so on."

Hart then went on to give an interesting insight about his last decision to run for president:

"'I told friends of mine that I seriously did not want to run for president,' he said. 'This is early '87, before I announced. I told Kathy Bushkin (his 1984 press secretary), I told Billy Shore (his senior adviser), I told my wife, and I told Warren Beatty. I said: 'I don't like the feel of this, I don't like what I sense. Something bad is going to happen.' I knew it was being fed by other campaigns to a degree, who were saying to the reporters: focus on his personal life, focus on his personal life.'

"But if you had this ominous feeling and you knew other campaigns were urging reporters to focus on your personal life, why on earth did you have Donna Rice over at your house? I asked him.

"Hart's voice was firm and measured, with just the hint of frustration in it. 'I felt I was entitled to have in my house, in our house, anybody I wanted to,' he said. 'It was my business. And I still feel that way, frankly. I don't think the press is justified in staking out or placing candidates under surveillance. I ... don't know.' There was a long pause. 'I think the whole thing had less to do with bounds than it had to do with, in a curious way, integrity. For me, my independence was so much a part of who I was and my insistence on that independence was a condition of running. There was part of my personal life that I was not willing to sacrifice."

So Hart would not sacrifice his personal life, he would not sacrifice a night with Donna Rice, for the presidency.

He calls it integrity. I could come up with several other names, but "stupid" tops the list and "weak" comes in a strong second.

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