President Clinton has been hankering for some time now to go to Vietnam on a kind of nostalgia tour--first postwar president to visit, bury the ghosts and all that. Sources say national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger thought that would be fine, but he wanted a substantive trip, not some magical mystery tour.

That meant Clinton would have to go early next year, maybe as part of an expected trip to India and Pakistan. That way there would be enough time left in his presidency to do serious follow-up work and actually accomplish something.

The political folks, along with Chief of Staff John D. Podesta, were said to be most decidedly cool to this. Clinton was certain to be hammered with headlines "draft dodger goes to Vietnam now that it's safe" and such, the politicals felt. Too big a political price for small-scale accomplishments.

As happens with these tussles, the question went back and forth before being resolved: Clinton won't be stopping in Vietnam as part of an Asia trip early in the year. On the other hand, he may well go to Vietnam next year around the time of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. Let's see, that's to be held in Brunei in November--likely after the elections.

Say Cheese

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) was no doubt delighted last Tuesday when a federal judge in Burlington saved his pet project, the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact. The compact, a cartel that boosts milk prices for New England farmers, was supposed to expire on Friday, despite Leahy's frenetic efforts to revive it on Capitol Hill.

But U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions III came to the rescue, granting an injunction that will keep the compact alive while he reviews the issue, thereby giving Leahy some extra time to work his political magic.

So we can presume that Leahy still believes Sessions "has distinguished himself by his contributions to the community and by his participation in efforts to improve our justice system." That's what Leahy said in August 1995, when he recommended Sessions for a federal judgeship. In that floor speech, Leahy might have mentioned that Sessions was also his former campaign manager. But no matter. This year, Leahy persuaded President Clinton to nominate Sessions to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Oh, one more thing. This year, Sessions has hired a new law clerk: Kevin Leahy. Yes, that's the senator's legal-eagle son. "For that reason, we have studiously avoided any contact with Judge Sessions on this issue," explained Leahy spokesman Jonathan Lamy.

Funny, though, the coalition of dairy cooperatives that brought the original lawsuit decided to file in Vermont, even though the largest cooperatives were from New York and Massachusetts. Hmmmm. . . .

A Fat Idea for Canning Spam

Now, the Loop Award for Most Creative "Dear Colleague" letter for October. Hands-down winner is Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.). Seems that thousands of House members and staff received a junk e-mail last week from something called CybRxpress/RxClinic announcing it had, among other things, "DRASTICALLY reduced our prices on weight loss medications!"

So Miller sent an e-mail to those who got the junk e-mail, called "spam" by the cyber people. "You've been spammed!!! Sign on to the Can Spam Act of 1999!!!" Miller's e-mail said, adding an overview of his bill to penalize companies that use the Internet to send unwanted junk mail.

The House e-mail system has sophisticated filters to block spamming, Miller press secretary John Cusey said, but someone broke through. "We thought this would be a unique way" to promote the bill and show Hill folks what it's like out there for people who don't have a high-tech filter system and thus have their computers clogged with junk. The message was: "This is what's happening to your constituents," Cusey said. While there are First Amendment concerns involved, Miller argues similar legislation against junk faxes appears to have passed constitutional muster in the courts.

Some recipients were upset by being double-spammed, Cusey said, thinking Miller had sent out the original message, which wasn't the case. In any event, the move worked, generating substantial interest in the legislation.

But what about the people who want to lose some weight?

Around the White House

In White House legislative affairs, Charles Brain, formerly House liaison chief, has moved up to deputy director of the office, replacing Janet Murguia, who is Al Gore's deputy campaign manager and director of public liaison.

Broderick D. Johnson, formerly chief counsel of the old House District of Columbia Committee and more recently in the legislative office, replaces Brain as House liaison.

Heather Riley, an assistant to press secretary Joe Lockhart, is to be head of television production at the White House.


Setting the record straight on some moves mentioned Friday:

Hans Binnendijk moves in to be National Security Council senior director for defense and arms control, replacing Robert G. Bell, who is to be the top American deputy to the NATO secretary general.

Also, outgoing National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Ricardo Martinez is an emergency room physician.