Jewish World Review
March 22, 2000 /15 Adar II, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- PRESIDENT CLINTON is a role model for America's most popular youth. On TV and in real life, the cool kids known as "echo boomers" are adopting his values, sounding his themes, and emulating his rhetoric.
They are, in other words, stealing, cheating, lying about sex, and perfecting the art of the defiant non-apology apology.
I saw the Clinton legacy unfold on a recent repeat episode of the teen TV hit "Popular," which is broadcast on the WB network. The episode, titled "Truth or Consequences," dealt with a clique of high school cheerleaders who steal the answers to a biology test.
Samantha, a nerdy young editor of the school newspaper, sets out to expose the scheme. Brassy head cheerleader Nicole is unfazed: "She has no physical proof on us. She only overheard us. It's her word against mine."
"It's her word against mine." How many times had that callous Clintonian refrain bounced off the walls of the Oval Office before Monica's blue dress appeared?
But back to the show: Hot on the investigative trail, Sam urges one of her friends to surreptitiously tape the conversation of a jock who had cheated. Sam then takes pity on Brooke, one of the cheating cheerleaders, and decides to cover up the truth. Our would-be whistleblower suffers the wrath of the entire student body, however, when her expose gets published against her will.
The episode ends with a cafeteria food fight, but the real cultural climax occurs between the high school principal and cheerleader Nicole, who has taken the fall for the cheating ring.
In a rousing monologue, Nicole makes a snide admission -- "I admit it. I cheated. So book me." - and proceeds to lecture the principal in an unapologetic defense of our everybody-does-it culture. Nicole cites her lying parents, fibbing friends and tax evaders as evidence. She asserts that lying and cheating are more often rewarded than punished, and ends her mea non culpa by pointing to the most popular man in America.
President Clinton lied to our faces, she points out smugly, and "his approval rating went through the roof."
Like the Big Creep, precocious Nicole gets away with a slap on the wrist (she's barred from participating in homecoming activities). And like the Big Creep, Nicole is not sorry about anything she did wrong. She's only sorry that she got caught.
It's only Hollywood, you say? Well, in episodes small and large, the popular kids in your neighborhood are copping the same flip attitude and concocting shameless lies with dwindling regard for the consequences. In my suburban Maryland neighborhood two weeks ago, seven honor students were arrested after making false accusations of sexual abuse against a teacher who had disciplined them for bad behavior.
"We thought it would be fun" to lie, one of the girls told the Washington Post. "The whole idea of being the center of attention, going to the office and everyone in school knowing. Everyone thought it would be cool." Cool? The teacher's reputation was destroyed, he was suspended from his job, and lived under virtual house arrest for a month.
The girl says she's sorry about the incident. Yet, she persisted in mocking the innocent teacher in the Post interview. "He's just annoying," she complained. A lawyer for the Maryland State Teachers Association noted that children lying about sex was "a regular occurrence" in the school system because "times have changed. There's less respect for elders..."
It's not so much a loss of respect for elders as it is the steady erosion of respect for elders who tell the truth - especially when it's not "cool." America's youth have learned well from their Baby-Boomer-in-chief. As he rides off into the sunset, leaving behind a sullied office for the cushy life of six-figure speaking fees and lifetime Secret Service protection, President Clinton's message reverberates with the high achievers of the Echo Boomer Generation:
Telling the truth is for nerds, suckers, and losers. Life is a popularity
contest, not a character test. Principles just get in the
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