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Jewish World Review Feb. 9, 2001 / 16 Shevat, 5761

James Lileks

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Consumer Reports

In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family -- WE'RE still talking about the Clintons. We'll always been talking about the Clintons. The cryogenically frozen head of Bill Clinton will give an interview in 2234: "I don't feel my legs, but I still feel your pain."What a strange month: Bush moves nimbly to advance his agenda, and people start talking about issues again - then the Clintons promptly cloud the air with the familiar aroma of their fly-blown ethics.

Never mind the pardons - now it's the furniture liberated on the way out. Turns out it actually belonged to the White House, not the Clintons. Mistake? Of course! Everyone who's ever taken a desk and a computer home from a job when they quit can easily understand how this happens. Here's a partial list of items removed:

A special robotic bust of FDR that turned its head and sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy"when you walked past it

The pen JFK used to approve assassinations. Lookee here, Webster - when you turn it upside down, the girlee's bathin' suit come raht off! Hyuk!

The portrait in the Lincoln Bedroom whose eyes seemed to follow you around the room, and dang if they're not the same color as Hillary's

The desk in the Oval Office. If that kneehole could talk . . .well, we'd best be sure it doesn't have the opportunity.

That sofa and that chair and that lamp and that bookshelf and those plants and that radio and these doorknobs and that carpet runner

The first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family

The second ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family

The skeet shoot clay-pigeon launcher, modified to fire ashtrays; it had "Hill Hath No Fury"painted on the barrel.

Well, perhaps that's an exaggeration. Clinton detractors imagine a White House stripped to the studs, its phone cords severed, its walls bedecked with fratboy epithets, and Hitler moustaches drawn on all the portraits. It wasn't that bad. But once again, we had to go through the same old routine of evasions and explanations until we're so exhausted we just shrug, sigh, and leave them alone in the henhouse. Fine. Whatever. Just lock up when you're done.

This time, however, even Clintonophiles were annoyed by the clumsiness of the exit. The pardons smelled bad. The evacuation of government property looked bad too. Angry editorials filled the liberal papers, as high-minded editorialists announced they'd finally had enough. It's one thing to lie under oath, but pocketing the flatware: how declasse. Stung by the charges - and by "charges,"of course, we mean "a truth that was not supposed to be widely known"- the Clintons agreed to pay back some money to shady people who'd given gifts, and defray the enormous rental fee for Clinton's office over Carnegie Hall.

But in classic Clinton style, this all manages to be your fault for being so petty. Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy gave us all a good hard slap on the wrist: "Given that Hillary Clinton helped raise more than $25 million for the benefit of the White House and that all the proceeds from her new book, 'Invitation to the White House,' will also go to the White House, it is a little silly and small to be talking about these few furnishings."

Let us hope that it makes more money for the White House than the "Takes a Village"book made for its supposed recipient: the Children's Defense Fund is reportedly fighting over royalties they never received. But who are you to criticize? Have you pledged any royalties to the CDF? All right, then. After all they've done for us, you begrudge them an ottoman - why, you ought to get down on your knees and thank them. And if the floor's hard on your knees because they took the rug, it serves you right.

Oh, and now they say they'll give some stuff back. Fracas closed. Meanwhile, there's another pardon scandal brewing - this time, it seems, the President pardoned a guy in the middle of an ongoing investigation. It never stops; we'll never stop talking about these people, if only to marvel:

How does one perfect this sort of ethical slipperiness, this high-handed laws-are-for-peons hauteur? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall, or an office building above it. Practice. Practice. Practice.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2000, James Lileks