Lest anyone doubt why they call the Senate the World's Greatest Deliberative Body, during Tuesday's spellbinding debate, we noticed Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) were much exercised over continued funding for the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

This is the computerized program for testing the nation's nukes to make sure they work without having to actually set them off.

"A key element of our adherence to the treaty, with the administration's safeguards, is the Stockpile Stewardess Program," Kennedy said in a brief speech, concluding that "with the Stockpile Stewardess Program, we will still be able to maintain a powerful nuclear deterrent."

Stocked stewardesses may be a critical concern, but surely something the Federal Aviation Administration can take care of for less than the $4.5 billion a year the stewardship program costs.

Kennedy, according to our tape of the debate, referred to stewardess--which came out sounding like stewardesh--three times.

Sometimes the mind wanders?

Backstairs at the White House

Last week we learned just how close Vice President Gore was to getting the top job. It happened early in the administration, President Clinton said Friday at the dedication of a new Secret Service headquarters. "There's this sort of this elaborate little electronic guard system out around the White House," Clinton said. "And if anything triggers the alarm, if you'll forgive me, all hell breaks loose for the Secret Service.

"Anything, any little old thing, can trigger that deal," Clinton said. "And I remember the first time that happened. . . . I was up on the third floor of the White House and the residence is on the second floor, and I didn't know what happens. So what happens is, the elevator stops, and the SWAT team occupies the staircase with their semiautomatic weapons.

"So they're all looking for somebody that's invading the White House. I come tromping down the staircase to the third floor, this guy comes rushing up on the second floor, I look up and there he is with his weapon pointed at me, and I thought: This would be a heck of a note for the Secret Service," Clinton said as the audience laughed.

" 'Clinton Killed by Agent Protecting the President.' That poor--I think he still has nightmares about that," Clinton said.

Looking for a Gore Communicator

The Gore camp is still looking for someone to fill the job of campaign communications director. Aide Laura Quinn, who was being talked about for the job, is not going to Nashville for personal reasons. Word is the Gore folks have approached former Whitewater spinmeister extraordinaire Mark Fabiani, now happily making money in business in Southern California.

But Fabiani apparently has turned them down.

What a Drag It Is to Be a CEO

Sense and sensibilities apparently differ on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The Berkeley, Calif.-based Ruckus Society, which considers defense projects such as the F-22 fighter jet, "Star Wars" technology and other projects to be wasteful, believes that the heads of the companies "taking handouts from the Pentagon" to do the work are just getting a form of welfare.

So the California activists figured they'd advertise their views on a billboard in Cambridge, Mass., along a commuter route to Raytheon's headquarters near Boston. The group prepaid for the ad, which had Raytheon chief Daniel Burnham, Boeing CEO Philip Condit and Lockheed Martin CEO Vance Coffman dressed in women's underwear as "Pentagon Welfare Queens."

AK Media canceled the contract once officials there got a look at the photo, which was deemed offensive, the Ruckus folks said in a press release.

Maybe they could try it out in California.

CAPTION: An activist group's billboard won't be seen on the way to Raytheon's headquarters near Boston.