The Strife of the Part

A Washington Times Maryland statehouse reporter, S. A. (Steve) Miller, caused an ugly scene in downtown Annapolis last week during a Thursday night party hosted by the Baltimore Sun. According to witnesses, Miller drunkenly groped a female former legislator and asked her to "take off [her] shirt." Then, when other partygoers grabbed his car keys, he threatened to "trash" the large luxury house rented by the Sun's capital bureau.

That was enough for Sun statehouse reporter Mike Dresser to call the Annapolis Police Department at 12:37 a.m. Friday, according to the resulting "event report." It states that an "extremely" intoxicated Miller was taken away by officers and dropped off at a local hotel around 1 a.m. No charges were filed against Miller, who joined the Times last fall after working at the Frederick Post.

Witnesses told us that when the 41-year-old former legislator arrived at the Sun's annual mid-session party and gave hugs to old friends from the press corps, Miller also demanded a hug. Though the two had never met in person, she reluctantly complied. Then, one witness told us, "to everyone's shock, he grabbed her butt, told her she was beautiful, spit out some lewd comments then asked her to 'take off [her] shirt.'"

Yesterday Miller's married victim told us: "I was so shocked I didn't know what to say or do. I was especially shocked because he had called me on the phone from time to time for my comments on various issues. I do find it ironic that someone representing the very conservative Washington Times would act so outrageously and irresponsibly."

Miller declined to comment on the incident. Times Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden told us: "I will say he was not representing the newspaper, but we certainly expect proper behavior from everyone. I'm sorry that the incident occurred."

We hear that Miller was given a talking-to yesterday by Times Managing Editor Francis Coombs Jr., and later, during a phone call to the woman to belatedly apologize, told her that he had to beg for his job. And was Miller's apology accepted?

"Of course," answered the woman, who asked not to be named. "We're all human and we make errors. This was a pretty big error of judgment. Hopefully, he will learn from his mistake and be more responsible in his drinking and in his behavior in the future."

Upon leaving college and joining the workforce more years ago than we care to reveal, we managed to get a job that paid the munificent sum of $175 a week. So when we read on that Stanford alum and Oxford near-grad Chelsea Clinton will be paid around $120,000 a year, plus a $10,000 signing bonus, for her first job as a junior consultant for McKinsey & Co., we were fascinated. Okay, we admit to feeling a tad bitter.

How is it that a barely experienced 23-year-old -- even if she is the smart, accomplished daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton -- is pulling down a six-figure salary? The folks at McKinsey didn't return repeated phone calls. The Post's Anne Schroeder consulted a panel of experts:

* Executive recruiter Lisa Calla-Russ: "Oh, is that all? Think about the hours she has to work, the overnighters . . . you won't be envious!"

* Corporate damage control consultant Eric Dezenhall: "It's no question that McKinsey is a training ground for CEOs. They got a good deal and if they keep her, it'll pay back in spades."

* Author and McKinsey alum Ethan Rasiel: "If she were coming in as a business analyst . . . then I would say six figures is on the higher range. However, if she's coming in as an associate, which is the level most MBAs and graduate-level degrees enter, six figures is completely normal. . . . The average time span for that job is two to three years, and I'm going to guess that the firm believes she'll add value to their firm itself and to the firm's clients."

* Business development strategist Bill Dal Col: "This is a brilliant move on McKinsey's part. They are very lucky to have gotten her. Her Rolodex and contacts alone will see a twenty-fold return on that investment -- not counting the contacts made through Mom and Dad. Everyone will return Chelsea Clinton's phone call, even you!"

"I will be in terms of what I can say to you about any of the topics that are discussed here."

-- White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, trying to be circumspect under the circumstances and suffering a moment of painful circumlocution during yesterday's briefing.