"Gary's not interested in seeing a magazine piece about himself," says Kathy Bushkin, 33. She is one of Sen. Gary Hart's two legislative aides who also mediates the senator's sporadic contacts with the press. "He'd like to see a piece about the issues."
The issues, in case you haven't heard, are the economy, defense, energy and arms control. Hart has been working on them for about two years, writing position papers, attending discussions at various universities in the cities where he finds himself, and appearing at his own seminars in black cowboy boots and a tie covered with eagles -- the Rocky Mountain equivalent of whales on the neckwear of East Coast liberals.
"When he's running full-time in '83 and '84, he won't have time to think these things through," Bushkin says. "So he's doing it now."
At the Democrats' mid-term conference, Hart rented a room in the Hilton and provided four experts to talk on the issues while Hart's collegues carried on their relative frivolity in the Civic Center next door."People are hungry for ideas," he told the small but rapt audiations is owned by Roence. ". . . I have always believed that Democrats have underestimated the intelligence of voters. Americans are smarter than politicians think they are."
Hart puts his hands in his pockets at receptions, a revealing bit of body language. "He doesn't like politics," says a self-described nymphomaniac of the election process. "He's not collegial."
"Issues have always been important to Hart," says his other legislative aide, Bill Shore, 27. "But issues are politic, too. People won't stand for the 'trust me' notion anymore."
Says Bushkin, "We're always re-examining things. I've never been a particular idealist, but some here are . . . Gary's divinity school background plays a role in his values approach to issues." (Hart graduated from both Yale Divinity School and Yale Law School.)
Every Friday, the staff sends out an "issues mailing" -- discussions of timely subjects -- to Democratic candidates around the country, most of them challengers to incumbents in the House and Senate. Hart's ideas are developed with the aide of staff and a loosely-knit network of specialists who are also friends. "We want to put together more formal groups on some issues," says Bushkin.
Hart has no PAC. This summer he filed a report on contributions to his nonexistent presidential campaign with the FEC, although he was not required to. Total contributions, most of them from Coloradans, should total $30,000 by the end of this month, a picayune amount even by water-testing standards. "The mail has really been surprising. He gets 40 or 50 letters a week from people who have heard of him. They know what kind of issues he's talking about. They're mostly young professionals -- doctors, lawyers, teachers -- and they're offering to help."
Hart plans to travel more this fall and to increase his visits to colleges and universities. He turns 45 this year, and has the best claim on younger voters. He and Teddy Kennedy both appeal to the activists in their party who are essential for the '80 nomination . . . and the one in '84 . . . and the one in '88.
Asked if Hart would be waging a full-fledged presidential campaign now if Kennedy were not in the race, instead of maintaining a studious distance, Bushkin says, "What an interesting question!"