Tabloids could be President Bush's undoing
 by Gene Lyons

 President Bush II's recent visit to Little Rock to attend a fund-raiser on behalf of  Sen. Tim Hutchinson provides an occasion
to review the new regime's most absurd claim: that Bush has "changed the tone" in Washington from rancor to civility.

    This feat he accomplished purely by virtue of party membership. With one of their own in the White House, GOP congressmen plan no investigations of Bush's very spotty business career. Crackpot tycoons like Richard Mellon Scaife are chortling over tax cuts instead of hiring private eyes. Pat Robertson hasn't called Bush the antichrist, and Jerry Falwell's not peddling videos accusing him of drug-smuggling or murder. Thanks to Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel law longer exists. So yeah, things are quieter in Washington. The GOP smear machine has shut down.

    What's amazing is that something so obvious needs saying. With a Republican of impeccable social pedigree in the White House, reporters act as deferential as butlers. If only they'd spare us the bit about Bush's wonderful "family values." Show us a rich, handsome playboy who drank heavily until age 40, and we'll show you somebody with a lot of secrets. Lucky for him, there appear to be no Democratic operatives willing to pay for them.

    Also, with the accursed Bill Clinton gone, the press wants to stuff the sex genie back into the bottle.
Until a prominent politician ends up splashing around in the Tidal Basin at 4 a.m. with somebody nicknamed
"The Argentine Firecracker," they think it's none of your business any more.
    The joker in the deck could turn out to be the tabloids.
    Celebrity sex sells, and TV has turned politicians into celebrities.

    Not that we particularly want to know Bush's secrets. A bit of discreet hypocrisy is fine with us. Very few are in a
position to cast stones, although we never noticed that it stopped them. Bush II's championing of Hutchinson, however,
made us faintly nauseated. When you're talking about Hutchinson, you're not talking about a little bit of hypocrisy.
You're talking world class. You're talking about a holier-than-thou Baptist preacher who condemned Clinton
and did everything in his power to destroy him.

    The man is a moral coward. No sooner did the Senate fail to remove Clinton from office than Hutchinson announced
his divorce and remarriage to a former staffer who was kept discreetly out of sight during the impeachment fight.
If he had an ounce of shame, he'd retire from the Senate.

    Here at Unsolicited Opinions Inc., we'd have no opinion about Hutchinson's divorce and remarriage had he behaved
with a minimum of integrity. But he didn't. As a woman friend whose opinions we particularly respect recently put it,
"Family values, my foot. Bush wouldn't care if Hutchinson was sleeping with an armadillo or a possum. It's about money
and power, period. It's never been about anything else."

    While we're on the topic of Republicans and sex, we may as well admit that we got a hoot out of Bob Dole's
new Pepsi commercial with Britney Spears.

    For those who haven't seen it, the nubile Miss Spears--Louisiana jailbait if we've ever seen it--cavorts
through a Pepsi warehouse with a team of male dancers, shaking her booty and pulling off clothing.
Near the end, she strikes a pouty, provocative pose.

    Cut to the Bobster sitting in front of his TV wearing a cardigan and patting a golden retriever.
The dog woofs. "Easy, boy," says Viagra spokesman Dole with a rueful head shake.
Maybe he's talking to the dog, maybe not. The girl is 18; Dole will be 80 on his next birthday.

    Apart from the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, who invented the whole virgin-strumpet routine a generation ago,
we've never seen a better example of today's conflicted Republican attitude toward human sexuality. Like the cheerleaders, Spears dresses like a Las Vegas call girl, but promotes herself as a virtuous maiden.   Sort of.

A former Mouseketeer who gives interviews about her faith in God and her determination to preserve her virginity
for marriage, Spears recently appeared on the Grammy awards clad in approximately six square inches of strategically
placed gold lame. She strutted, gyrated and thrust her pelvis at the camera while singing "I'm not that innocent."
Call us cynical, but we suspect she's not.

    When Dole ran for president in 1996, he backed the same religious-right, "abstinence-only" sex education nostrums
Bush II recommends. Last week, The New York Times reported that some health experts believe the administration is suppressing a report from the surgeon general concluding that the most effective way to prevent teen pregnancies,
abortions and sexually transmitted diseases is sex education containing frank, factual information while promoting
"responsible sexual behavior" in part by providing improved access to contraception.
    Can't have that.
    Got to have more Viagra, more Britney Spears.
    It's the American way.
Back to Bush

    Last week we suggested Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes" as a guide to understanding
George W. Bush. That morning, Bush went on ABC News and stated that the United States would do
"whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself" against a Chinese attack.

    This contradicted 30 years of U.S. policy, which has always been studiously ambiguous to avoid being sucked
into an Asian war by reckless actions by either side. Aides spent all day arguing that while Bush meant exactly
what he said, American policy was unchanged.

    That evening, former Reagan administration China hand Douglas Paal explained Bush's remarks as follows on
PBS' "The Lehrer Report": The statements reflect the kind of nuanced change that comes with a new administration. . . .
The president's first remarks to ABC News I saw as correct but incomplete. And when he subsequently was
interviewed by further people such as John King from CNN, he made a more balanced statement . . . ."

    Translation: Just because David Broder wrote a column wondering why Bush has nothing to say doesn't mean
the White House needs to let that ignoramus go on national TV without a script.

    Politically shrewd but ignorant, the president mistook a policy question for a "toughness" question.
Good thing there's no real danger or the fool might suck us into World War III.

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