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Jewish World Review August 16, 2000 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5760

Roger Simon

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Consumer Reports

Gotta have the funk -- LOS ANGELES | Patrick Kennedy is telling a joke that makes fun of Patrick Kennedy, self-deprecating humor being the only kind of humor that is safe for politicians to indulge in these days.

Kennedy, a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, is standing on the lawn of the Norman and Mary Patiz estate, high up on a hillside in Beverly Hills -- the city of Los Angeles spread out like a twinkling map-of-the-stars-homes beneath him.

Patiz is a radio mogul, and in Los Angeles -- where realty is destiny -- everybody knows that the Patiz estate used to be the David Geffen estate, which used to be the Marlo Thomas estate. (Few memories at this cocktail party go back beyond Marlo Thomas.)

As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Kennedy, 33, is in charge of raising millions and millions of dollars, which, it turns out, he is quite good at.

"His name alone is worth $10 million," a Democratic fund-raiser tells me.

"People who take calls from nobody take calls from Patrick Kennedy."

So Kennedy is telling this story about how he has to call George Clinton, the ultimate funk singer, and get him to appear at a Democratic fund-raiser.

"They've written it all out for me on a notecard," Kennedy is saying, "and the notecard says I must say to him, 'We gotta have the funk!'"

The people standing around Kennedy begin to laugh.

"It's underlined three times on the notecard," Kennedy is saying. "'We gotta have the funk.' I have to say this to him. So I get him on the phone and say, 'This is Congressman Kennedy-Kennedy-Kennedy ..."

Everybody laughs again at how Kennedy is making fun of the power of the Kennedy name.

"And then I say to him: 'We gotta have the funk!' And he comes right back with, 'And you're gonna get the groove, too!' He doesn't miss a beat. 'And you're gonna get the groove, too!'"

Everybody roars. Pretending that I get the joke, which I don't entirely do, I laugh and wander away to where Martin Frost, a Democratic congressman from Texas, is talking to a group of reporters.

Frost is asked how he thinks the presidential election is going to come out and he says, "I think it's going to be close."

This is not good news for the Democrats.

If you think you are going to win, you usually say, "I think we're doing pretty well, we just have to guard against overconfidence."

If you think you are going to lose, you usually say, "I think it's going to be close."

In any case, Frost thinks it is going to be close, and when he is asked if an Al Gore loss could also doom Democratic hopes for taking back the House of Representatives, he says: "Only if it's a landslide. If it's not a landslide, the presidential race won't have any effect on Congress."

This, too, is not usually considered good news.

Democrats don't usually talk about the possibility of a landslide loss especially right before the Democratic Convention, but the truth is that a number of Democrats and Republicans in Congress care much more about who controls the House and Senate than who wins the White House.

It make sense: Who wins the White House affects only the destiny of the nation and the world.

Who controls the Congress affects something really important: committee chairmanships.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate