Thursday, February 22, 2001

Bill Clinton used to be a Bubba, but he’s a Bobo now. A Bobo, as everybody who read David Brooks’ “Bobos in Paradise” knows, is a yuppie who successfully merged the bohemian urges of the 1960s with the acquisitive impulses of the 1980s. A Bobo wears jeans and $100 running shoes into the Age of Information.

A Bobo is a baby boomer who made it without bloodlines, a mixed breed who’s half-bohemian, half-bourgeois. He has replaced the snobbish White Anglo Saxon Protestant the WASP who was born to the manor with money, status and upper-class genes and who revels in his well-bred Machiavellian maneuverings.

The Bobo is a bohemian who becomes bourgeois through books and smarts acquired on a campus. He feels another’s pain, but he wants others to feel his pain, too. He can’t feel good about himself unless others feel good about him. So Bill Clinton whines in the New York Times: “I am accustomed to the rough and tumble of politics, but the accusations made against me in [the Marc Rich] case have been particularly painful because for eight years I worked hard to make good decisions for the American people.” We’re such ingrates.

Republicans and the vast right-wing conspiracy are to President Bobo as the furies were to Orestes. They’re pests, but unlike the devil they didn’t make him do it. They just made everything worse. (“Geraldo, why are they so mean to me?”) Bill Clinton as a Bobo is Machiavelli with a bleeding heart.

He was pure Bobo in his speech to the Oracle Corp. convention of Internet specialists on Monday: “I think it’s insulting to poor people to say they ought to have to make a choice between penicillin and Pentium.” The WASP had a sharper stinger than that.

President Bill’s decision to take an office in Harlem was another perfect Bobo gesture. The bourgeois Bill Clinton initially chose an office near Carnegie Hall, but the bohemian Bill Clinton had the perfect fallback position next door to the Apollo. Norman Mailer might call him the “White Negro” if Toni Morrison had not already called him “our first black president.” (The long-suffering blacks get blamed for everything.) If moving his office to Harlem was less a gesture of his liberal sensitivities he displaced the Child Services Administration it was one of the few neighborhoods where he could get a view of residents who might throw roses instead of ripe tomatoes.

Like husband, like wife. Hillary Clinton, according to David Brooks, is the female Bobo poster child: “She marched in the sixties, traded currencies in the eighties, and she has a full stock of countercultural, progressive attitudes mixed with down-home ambition.” And this was before Hillary won her Senate seat, registered her china and silver as though she were a breathless bride who couldn’t wait to blush and furnished her house with chairs and tables sent to the White House by the rich and infamous (and some who just wanted to be famous).

Hillary’s acquired a few smarts. She hired James Kennedy as her new communications director. Mr. Kennedy is a familiar Clinton handyman, who was the spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office in the days when every day meant someone had to explain thong panties or why that wasn’t really a stain on the intern’s dress. In Washington, politics is never having to say you’re ashamed.

As we say in the news biz, the Clintons are a story with legs (and sometimes thick ankles). “Why Move On?” asks the Weekly Standard, and answers its own question: “This is too much fun.” You could ask any conservative who struggled to get someone to listen when he was forever saying, if you can bear the thought, that the president had no clothes. And now we get to say “we told you so.”

Liberals have their own reasons to enjoy the show now. Liberals can finally show their “independence” by attacking one of their own now that he’s safely down. Of course, they’re as independent as flies on flypaper (or as Bill might have said, back when he was from Arkansas: “As independent as a hog on ice.”

Anyone who defended our Bill through the sex, sin and skin scandals because they were afraid not to have nothing to fear now from the Great Pardoner. Sycophancy shrinks without its power source. If nothing makes a man (or woman) so vain than to be told he (or she) is a sinner, scolding the sinner panders to a greater vanity. Bill won’t run into the vanities in Harlem. Why else do you think he got off the A train at 125th Street?

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