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Jewish World Review Jan. 25, 2001/ 2 Shevat, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" -- THE RAIN and the snow that fell on George W. Bush's Inaugural washed away leaves in the gutters, trash at the curbs, and an old way of doing things.

Between the time Bill Clinton left the Oval Office and George W. took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, workmen carried away the deep blue oval carpet and put down a more elegant ivory and sage rug that graced the office when Ronald Reagan was president. Sofas in a mellower cream color gave the room a lighter touch of airiness, if not innocence. Two new paintings depict a boy fishing and a man on horseback. The bronze "Bronco Buster'' by Fredric Remington stays.

More than the decor is different. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush will not move into offices in the West Wing. She believes in separating His and Hers. (Maybe she, like my Aunt Minnie, married for love but not for lunch.)

Washington is reveling in a new sensibility of freshness. Hillary and Bill arrived in Washington in a storm of jaded rumors of tawdriness. We were confronted with their past on "60 Minutes'' and soon after they arrived we had to get accustomed to hourly bulletins on who had slept where, when and with whom. It was hard to give Hillary that "zone of privacy'' she asked for. Reporters, as presidents before the Clintons understood well, are like termites; when they get in the woodwork they stay there, boring from within and gnawing away. But the wood has to be vulnerable to get their attention.

The Clintons were the first boomer First Couple and they brought with them a new set of rules to break. If Elvis shocked our grandparents when he sang "You ain't nothin' but a houn' dog,'' Bill Clinton came of age when it was commonplace (as well as common) to run with the pack of sexual revolutionaries.

George and Laura grew up at the same time as the Clintons and are, technically, boomers. But to paraphrase W.'s Inaugural address, it's as though the Clintons and the Bushes shared a continent but not a country. The difference is as wide as the difference between traditional country and hard rock. When the Bushes talk about W.'s wild days on booze, they sound like they're singing the lyrics of something from Nashville. "It's Jim Beam or me,'' Laura told him. (Nothing here to inhale.)

Something real is what has been missing at the White House. George and Laura looked at home at the prayer service at the National Cathedral. It didn't look like a photo-op. There was no oversized Bible in George W.'s hand, and they seemed to know the words to the hymns.

We didn't get the feeling they'll leave Washington with $190,000 worth of china, silver and flatware in gifts accumulated while in the White House, or ask friends to help them furnish the new house at the ranch. The Bushes, of course, have the taste that comes from growing up with a sense of place in a family accustomed to a life lived in public. Tackiness and vulgarity come naturally to folks not to the manner (or manor) born.

Bill Clinton invoked his felicitously named hometown called Hope when it was convenient, but there was no home in Arkansas to fly back to when his term was over. For the Bushes, Texas is more than a place to leave, it's a place to return to.

"In a way, Laura and I will never quite settle in Washington because, while the honor is great, the work is temporary,'' he told fellow Texans in his farewell to Midland. Bill Clinton, for whom every "farewell'' is followed by a "hail,'' made a point of saying in his farewell to the White House that "I'm still here.''

George W. is mocked for being inarticulate, for speaking hesitantly and not always getting the pronunciation right. But he was clear enough in telling his staff that he expects them to hew to a strict code of legal and ethical conduct and to avoid "even the appearance of problems.'' On his final day in office, Bill Clinton tried to spin the reasons why the state of Arkansas took away his law license for five years and imposed a $25,000 fine for "testifying falsely.'' That's lawyer talk for "lying.''

Decency, conscience, civility and citizenship were words we heard a lot on Inauguration weekend, the private and public virtues George W. vows to restore to practice in Washington. He reminded us that an angel directs the storm in the whirlwind of Washington, and with a lot of rough weather in the forecast he'll need an army of angels. But Bob Dylan, the boomer icon, was right: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.''


01/22/01: Poetry and religion in the Bush administration
01/18/01: Ashcroft can't dance (don't ask him)
01/15/01: Clothes make the First Lady
01/11/01: Pity Jerusalem in the 'peace' process
01/08/01: Laying the political race card
01/04/01: 'What women want' in the new millennium
01/02/01: This year, looking ahead is sure sweeter than looking back
12/21/00: Black power with a Republican face
12/21/00: First impressions of two First Ladies
12/18/00: Challenge for the 'better angels of our nature'
12/14/00: What we've lost sight of
12/13/00: Hillary in the lion's den
12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate