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Jewish World Review June 7, 2000 / 4 Sivan, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Consumer Reports

Not sorry for the inconvenience --
LINDA TRIPP is back in the news. Among sundry predictions shared with a South Carolina audience recently, she anticipated that after Bill Clinton leaves office "other Monicas" will reveal themselves.

We'll see. The close of this sordid administration will doubtless be the occasion for record numbers of tell-all memoirs -- there is, after all, so much to tell. And so much of it is bound to be tabloid-ready.

In fact, this president's large transgressions have been so numerous that the small ones have tended to be overlooked. And yet, the small ones offer a different -- and in some ways more revealing -- picture of the man than do his large offenses.

For those of us who live in the District of Columbia or nearby, there is widespread hope that after Clinton's departure Pennsylvania Avenue may once again be opened to vehicular traffic. Pennsylvania Avenue is a main thoroughfare in the District, and closing it off has badly exacerbated an already gruesome traffic-flow problem.

But then, Washingtonians are quite used to the unusual inconvenience this president has visited upon them. According to District police, about 1000 legally parked cars are towed every year to provide maximum security for the president when he decides, often on the spur of the moment, to dine out, see a basketball game or visit friends. Dozens of cars are towed without any notice, sometimes to spots a few blocks away, but sometimes to the impoundment lots on the edge of town -- which are incredibly inconvenient to reach. Hapless citizens are left wandering the streets, frantic at the thought that their cars have been stolen.

It's the same story in other cities. In Brooklyn, where the president attended a fund-raiser, 157 cars were unceremoniously removed. One Brooklyn resident, Ilene Marchese told The Associated Press: "This is Brooklyn. It doesn't take much to set people off. It was so inconsiderate. People were screaming." In neighboring New Jersey, 25 cars were ticketed and towed when the president showed up for a fund-raiser at a private home. The owners were forced to retrieve (and pay for) their cars at the impoundment lot.

"Frankly, America ..."

The Secret Service has towed cars for other presidents. But those who cover the White House agree that the lack of elementary consideration for others that one expects from normal people is not present in Mr. or Mrs. Clinton.

Remember the famous haircut at the Los Angeles airport that held up hundreds, if not thousands, of travelers? The president complained about the attention it garnered but, as Mickey Kaus explained later in The New Republic, there was a reason.

The press corps covering Clinton was already (in 1993!) sick and tired of his perpetual lateness, last-minute schedule changes and utter indifference to the needs of others. According to Kaus, "He makes kids shiver waiting for him in the Rose Garden, he makes his traveling party wait, after Air Force One arrives home in Washington, until he has finished his dinner on the plane."

Mrs. Clinton, recently invited to a complimentary breakfast at a New York restaurant, helped herself to a hearty meal and then left without leaving a tip for her waitress, a single mother with two children.

This president, despite his down-home style and blue jeans, has stretched the limits of acceptable luxury in office beyond normal bounds. Without a flicker of worry about the cost, this president has made more than twice as many foreign trips as Ronald Reagan, the only other president to serve two complete terms in the jet age. Reagan, Scripps Howard reports, spent a total of 120 days abroad (and three of these trips were summits with Mikhail Gorbachev).

Clinton has been out of the country for 234 days. And in contrast to Reagan, Clinton has taken as many as 200 White House aides with him. His six-nation tour of Africa required 13 helicopters and 98 air cargo missions at an estimated cost (probably way too low) of $43 million.

But heck, just like the loan on their new house in New York (where, by the way, residents can no longer park on the street), it isn't their money.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate