Old-timers may remember the Groucho Marx line: "Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" That's why, even before the television debate lights cool, all the campaigns jump to put their best spin on the events.

So we found on our fax machine what appears to be a Bush campaign "Post Debate Summary" of talking points for George W. Bush supporters and spinmeisters to emphasize. Some highlights:

"*Drew sharp distinctions between his bold, responsible plan for cutting taxes and those of his opponents.

"*Highlighted his executive experience as Governor of Texas, where he passed the two largest tax cuts in state history, passed significant education reform, and tort reform."

And our favorite, a little appraisal that sounds like Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley's self-esteem clinic:

"*Confident, command performance, clearly presidential. Showed flashes of humor and grace under fire. Dominated the evening."

And he's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him!

Ros-Lehtinen's Giraffe--er, Gaffe

This just in from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who's been battling the Immigration and Naturalization Service's decision to send 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez back to live with his father in Cuba, where there is no Disney World:

"Although we are well aware of the record the Clinton Administration has of cow towing to the Castro regime . . ." Not to mention horse pulling.

Putting the 'Con' in Congress

Loop Fans recently have been sending in this very interesting e-mail, wondering if it can be true:

Subject: THIS IS IMPORTANT -- A MUST READ!!

Can you imagine working at the following Company? It has a little over 500 employees with the following statistics:

29 have been accused of spousal abuse 7 have been arrested for fraud 19 have been accused of writing bad checks 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses 3 have been arrested for assault 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges 8 have been arrested for shoplifting 21 are current defendants in lawsuits In 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving

Can you guess which organization this is? Give up? It's the 535 members of your United States Congress. The same group that perpetually cranks out hundreds upon hundreds of new laws designed to keep the rest of us in line.

Best we can figure after some checking is that, while most entertaining, this is a phony. Some of the items, such as 21 members being defendants in lawsuits, may be true, but meaningless.

And 84 "stopped" for drunk driving in just one year? Reporters may be a bit lazy at times, but it's hard to believe that would go unnoticed.

So, unless someone's got a list of specifics, this goes into the trash. Besides, if our lawmakers were that interesting, we'd all be covering Congress.

Get Your Caribbean Ambassadorship Today!

Hurry, hurry, hurry. There's no time to lose. Few, if any, political ambassadors will be confirmed this year, but you never know. There are open posts in Barbados and several other exceptionally fine islands in the Eastern Caribbean with incomparable snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities.

The last ambassador to Barbados, major Democratic fund-raiser E. William Crotty of Florida, died in October. The short list includes Valerie Crotty, the ambassador's widow, who is not likely to be tapped, and prominent Washington attorney Richard Ben-Veniste, who insists that he does not want it--but he's on the short list anyway.

Ben-Veniste, a key player on the Watergate independent counsel team and the Senate Banking Committee Democrats' top lawyer during the Whitewater investigation, is now Democratic fund-raiser Terence R. McAuliffe's lawyer.

The administration is also looking for a replacement for David B. Hermelin, the much-loved ambassador to Norway who recently decided to leave for health reasons. Unclear whether the Clintonites will opt for a career or a political appointee.

Moving On . . .

Washington lawyer William J. Baer, former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition, has returned to his old law firm, Arnold & Porter, to run the firm's antitrust group.

Rob Nichols, communications director for Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) and before that press secretary for Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), is off to the private sector, becoming director of communications for the Electronic Industries Alliance in Arlington.

Alicia Bambara, former communications director to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and deputy administrator at the Food and Consumer Services Administration at the Department of Agriculture, and most recently chief of staff for legislative and public affairs at the Agency for International Development, is starting her own strategic and media affairs business, focusing on crisis communications. She's seen her share of crises.