"I will never use metaphors again," national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger pledged Friday--two days after bringing up his daughter's "very messy" college apartment to try to explain to reporters why the administration was not intervening to stop the bloodshed in East Timor.

To make distinctions between the violence in Bosnia and Kosovo and recent events in East Timor, Berger had said: "You know, my daughter has a very messy apartment up in college. Maybe I shouldn't intervene to have that cleaned up. I don't think anybody ever articulated a doctrine which said we ought to intervene wherever there's a humanitarian problem."

Briefing reporters on Air Force One en route to New Zealand last week, before the administration announced plans yesterday to provide logistical support to U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor, Berger brought up the metaphor matter unprompted. "My response was a rather stupid one, my metaphor was rather stupid," he said. "It was a dumb answer."

Berger said the issue posed was broader than Timor and involved "whether or not after Kosovo we now have an obligation to go everywhere." His remark "was not by any means meant to minimize the importance of Timor," he said. "It was a clumsy way of saying we can't obviously go everywhere, do everything."

"But it was an unfortunate metaphor," he said, pledging never to use them again.

Good idea.

Jousting for Judges

For most people, autumn means football season. But for others, it means a return to the joust between the Clinton administration and the GOP-controlled Senate over judicial appointments.

Here's how the scorecard looks: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) has scheduled a hearing this week on a handful of President Clinton's nominees and is expected to have at least two more hearings--over the objections of some in his own party--before the Senate wraps up this year.

That means the committee will move maybe 15 to 20 more judges to the Senate floor this year. The Senate has confirmed only 14 so far this year--something that has driven Democrats to distraction. But Republicans note there was a bit of a holdup while the Senate took care of that little impeachment thing.

There are 10 nominees already pending on the floor. So it appears at the very most, the Clintonites will put perhaps 40 judges on the federal bench this year. That's most optimistic, since several of those awaiting a vote may not make it. Three of them--California U.S. District Judge Richard Paez, San Francisco lawyer Marsha Berzon and Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronald White--have been twisting for a long time. Paez has been awaiting Senate approval nearly four years.

Sources say there may well be a battle over the confirmation of Hatch pal Ted Stewart, a Utah official and conservative Republican. Look for Senate Democrats to demand Paez and company get a vote along with Stewart.

Clinton has already put 318 Article III judges on the 844-member judiciary. By the end of the year, his total may be in the 340 range.

But no one expects that number to go up much next year, even though, historically, the Senate has confirmed a fair number of judges in presidential election years, according to reports from the liberal Alliance for Justice.

In 1980, a Democratic Senate moved 64 of Jimmy Carter's judges; in 1984, a GOP Senate moved 44 of Ronald Reagan's; in 1988, perhaps the year most analogous to next year, a Democratic Senate confirmed 41 Reagan nominees. In 1992, the Democratic Senate confirmed 66 of George Bush's nominees; and in 1996, the GOP Senate confirmed 17 of Clinton's.

Given the recent trends, Democrats probably will be lucky to get that many next year.

Gore Adds Pollster No. 5

On the trail. . . . As we know, Clinton doesn't move without first checking with his pollster. Now it looks like Vice President Gore also likes pollsters. He's bringing on his fifth, Boston-based Tubby Harrison, who will focus on polling in New Hampshire. (Think how much money President Reagan saved by using an astrologer. And it worked out fine for him.)

GOP consultant Mike Murphy is talking to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about coming on board in some strategic capacity. Murphy worked for Lamar Alexander's 1996 campaign, and has remained neutral in this campaign. Also, Todd Harris, late of the Rep. John R. Kasich (R-Ohio) presidential campaign, is moving over to handle press duties for the McCain folks.

Switch Hitting on the Hill

Back on the Hill, Jenny Luray, legislative director for Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) before going to the White House to run the women's office last fall, is heading to the Senate side to become chief of staff for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.).

And back in Gore's White House office, word is that Lisa Brown, formerly at the Justice Department's office of legal counsel and more recently deputy counsel to Gore, is expected to move up to the counsel's job, replacing chief of staff Charles Burson.