July 30, 2000

          Not Our Class, Darling
            By MAUREEN DOWD


          PHILADELPHIA -- It would be fun to see what John O'Hara
          would make of the Republicans' restoration convention.

          The writer from a small town outside
          Philadelphia was so fixated on social mores,
          on the unspoken rules of class among the
          Main Line types, that Ernest Hemingway once cracked, "Let's start a
          bloody fund to send John O'Hara to Yale."

          The novelist of manners called his fictional town outside Philadelphia
          Gibbsville, and he wrote about "the persona gratas of the inner sanctum,"
          as he called the swells of the country club set.

          "Any member of the club could come to the dance, but not everyone who
          came to the dance was really welcome in the smoking room," he wrote in
          "Appointment in Samarra." The smoking room was for "the spenders and
          drinkers and socially secure, who could thumb their noses and not have to
          answer to anyone except their own families."

          Mr. O'Hara, who savored the self-destructive streak among the pampered,
          would have enjoyed Bushville as much as Gibbsville: a millennial
          convention rooting for the goof-off son of the fired boss to get the big job.
          It is the old-boy network writ large, a bunch of mostly rich, white, male,
          older delegates pouring into the city of underdog "Rocky" to see two
          overdog oilmen who got to go to Yale preach about a more democratic
          Republican Party.

          The writer who always had his nose pressed up against the glass would
          have understood perfectly why George Walker Bush did not scrutinize
          Dick Cheney's voting record before anointing him -- just as George
          Herbert Walker Bush never sat down with J. Danforth Quayle to have a
          substantive conversation about issues, principles or beliefs before anointing

          It would have been rude. As Bush family icon Henry Stimson, F.D.R.'s
          secretary of war, put it, "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail."

          The Bushes feel you should trust them to choose trustworthy seconds from
          the club.

          The arrival of Dick Cheney, with his "Dr. No" voting record strafing the
          little folk, may give Prince Albert more credibility as a populist.

          President Clinton, the darling of the meritocracy, jumped on the class issue
          at a Boston fund-raiser on Friday. W.'s only message, he mocked, is "My
          daddy was president."

          The two George Bushes are engaging and unpretentious. But deep down in
          their genes is that elitist sense that the important decisions should be made
          by those who are bred to make them. Their ideology is friendship. They
          equate integrity with loyalty to them. They are genuinely surprised when
          someone accuses them of callousness -- whether it is the Willie Horton
          issue with the father or the relentless Texas death-row executions with the
          son -- because their perspective is, "I know I'm honorable, therefore I'm
          best accountable to myself."

          The family code is rooted in the noblesse oblige air of Prescott Bush, a
          craggy senator and a Wall Street executive who inhabited the partners'
          room at Brown Brothers Harriman, a rarefied wood-paneled universe filled
          with Skull and Bones men and roll-top desks and a sense that the fate of
          the nation was best left in their hands over cigars and brandy.

          Newsweek reports today that W. was always "somewhat oblivious to the
          political power of his family ties." Running for Congress in 1978, he went
          to a Republican candidates' school. "David Dreier, now a Republican
          congressman from California," Newsweek says, "recalls young Bush
          excitedly telling him, 'I've got the greatest idea of how to raise money for
          the campaign. Have your mother send a letter to your family's Christmas
          card list. I just did and I got $350,000!' It doesn't seem to have occurred to
          Bush that not everyone has Barbara Bush's Rolodex full of senators and
          statesmen and G.O.P. fat cats."

          It is disturbing the way W. first ignored and then defended Dick Cheney's
          Draconian anti-woman, anti-child, anti-senior, anti-black, anti-environment,
          anti-poor voting record in the House in the 80's.

          W. took full advantage of his unlimited second chances and family
          connections. The people hurt by Mr. Cheney's reactionary votes had only
          one chance, or no chance.

          Asked by Peter Jennings on Friday if it was politically advantageous to be
          George Bush's son, W. replied, "No." Piffle.

          Asked about his political relationship with his father, the son replied, "There
          is no political relationship."

          Double piffle.

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