President Bush stopped by George Washington University Hospital yesterday morning to visit his Republican Party chairman, Lee Atwater, who is back in the hospital in his continuing battle with an inoperable brain tumor. Last month the president, returning from a weekend at Camp David, dropped by Atwater's home for a visit with him and his family. Since the 39-year-old Atwater collapsed during a speech in March, he has been in and out of the hospital a number of times for treatment of the tumor and for physical therapy.

The president's visit, coupled with the fact that the party recently named Republican strategist Charles Black to act in Atwater's place during his recovery, raised new concerns. Atwater reentered the hospital Thursday after suffering a high fever and back pains, a friend told Knight-Ridder. As a precautionary measure, he is undergoing further medical tests and bone and brain scans. Scott Sowry, deputy press secretary at the Republican National Committee, said Atwater's condition is essentially unchanged. "The tumor is dying," he said. "Everything is fine and he's working on his therapy."

Out and About

Around the Democratic National Committee, there must have been a chorus of "What? Did I hear what I heard?" when Michael Dukakis said on C-SPAN over the weekend that he might consider making another try for the presidency. The 1988 Democratic Party standard bearer, who was trounced resoundingly by President Bush, was asked if he would ever consider running for president again. "Maybe. Maybe," he said, adding, "I don't think you rule it out, I don't think you rule it in. Kitty and I are still relatively young; we've still got our health, we've got a lot of energy. It's an exciting and wondrous world out there these days, as we read about the cataclysmic changes every day internationally and otherwise." It's part of his old "never say never" position, but the reality is that the Democratic Party has to agree to his running again. The Massachusetts governor, whose popularity has slumped in his home state, might want to talk to longtime acquaintance Marty Linsky, a political analyst at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government who, when asked about Dukakis's chances, said, "There certainly doesn't seem to be much external data for it." He added that in a recent presidential preference poll of DNC members, not one mentioned Dukakis ...

It is by now well known that the Kluge estate in Charlottesville has, in addition to glittering chandeliers in the stables, a private chapel. And when Patricia Kluge wants to attend Mass, a priest from the nearby St. Thomas Aquinas Church makes a chapel call with the approval of Bishop Walter F. Sullivan of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. A spokesman for the diocese said that conducting private services at the Kluge chapel is just one of the services diocesan priests perform. There was, however, no comment on whether Kluge pays a fee for the priest's time ...

The "Doonesbury" comic strip, seen beneath this column, is causing problems with the character of J.J., a performance artist who this week spouts provocative language and wears nothing but a strategically draped rope and a bucket on her head. John Harmon, editor of the Republic in Columbus, Ind., is not running the strip. "If our photographers came back with something like that, we wouldn't run it," he said. The strip is also missing at the Fort Worth (Tex.) Star-Telegram. The editor there doesn't approve of the language ...