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IF SOVIETS GET ALONG, WHY NOT WILDER, ROBB?

Although Gov. Wilder and Sen. Robb said they have made up, everyone in Virginia is still asking, "If Gorbachev and Yeltsin can get along, why can't Doug Wilder and Chuck Robb?"

Reuben Destel, a specialist in Soviet and Virginia politics at the Brookings Institute, responds that there is a difference between the two odd couples. For one thing, Gorbachev and Yeltsin would never think of getting involved in dirty politics, while that's all Wilder and Robb ever seem to do.Reuben said, "For another thing, Wilder and Robb are members of the same political party, so it figures that they don't like each other. Gorbachev and Yeltsin are from two different parties so they respect the other person's privacy."

He told me, "Yeltsin has a lot of hot stuff on Gorbachev, but he has never released it to Soviet television."

"Such as what?"

"Yeltsin has tapes of Gorbachev recorded at Yalta where a dozen topless street car conductors were in attendance."

"What's wrong with that?"

"They were members of the Communist Party and they wore pictures of Elvis Presley on their sandals."

"What else separates the Russians from the Virginians?"

"We know that Gorbachev has never listened in on any conversations made by Yeltsin on a cellular phone."

"Why not?"

"Because Yeltsin doesn't have a cellular phone. Even if he did, Gorbachev has given strict orders to the KGB that whatever they overhear they have to keep to themselves. Virginia, on the other hand, has all sorts of cellular phones, and American politicians like nothing better than eavesdropping on each other's car phones. There is talk that John Adams tapped Thomas Jefferson to find out what he was trying to sneak into the Constitution."

"It's hard to believe that Soviet politicians don't resort to dirty tricks."

"They would if they knew how. You have to live in a democracy for a long time before you learn the ropes of cheating in politics. Some day Russia may be as bad as Virginia, but at the moment it doesn't have the sophistication to really destroy its opponents."

"I'll bet Gorbachev would give every hair on his head to know how Wilder and Robb play the game."

"It's not Wilder and Robb - it's their staffs. You can win any election you want to if you have the right staff to do your dirty work for you."

"Where will it all end?"

"Nobody knows for sure, but the Democratic Party could fade away. That's what political fratricide is all about."