- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

George W. can't even get a square meal without bumping a nose or two out of joint.

"Why," asks a troubled reader, a denizen of Washington's Green Book (and one of several who called similarly troubled), "would George W. take his wife to dinner at Katharine Graham's, of all places, for their very first night out in Washington society? She surrounded him with all the tired, old out-of-work liberal Democratic hacks who think he's a jerk. You notice that she didn't invite any of his friends. Doesn't he know what those people really think of him?"

Well, yes, he probably does, but all the little Bushes are taught good manners and good breeding stays with a man. How can a gent tell a lady no? Besides, Mrs. Graham is famous for cooking up the best collards, ham hocks and cornbread on R Street. She often greets her guests with the evidence on her apron. So we shouldn't begrudge the man a break from government-issue cuisine. Besides, women are curious about such things, and Laura might not get another chance to see the inside of the Graham mansion.

Another reader sends along a license-plate holder, no doubt meant to cover up the sophomoric propaganda on the District of Columbia tags, emblazoned with the legend: "Bush Administrations: Our Daley Bread Since 1989." (Sounds fuzzy to me, too.) He appends a plaintive note: "Use it before W. goes 'kinder, gentler' on us."

Some of George W.'s real friends, the ones who stuck with him through the Florida recounts when others were practicing to be gracious losers, notice these little things, and it makes them nervous. Some of them notice bigger things, too.

Colin Powell, a good man new to the diplomatic deceptions of the Middle East, where deceit, double-dealing and duplicity were invented, returns from his first trip as secretary of state to announce that the tough talk about Saddam Hussein was just tough talk. His boss bombed Iraq, sending Saddam an unmistakable message, and just before he left for Cairo and points east the general had an unequivocal message for Baghdad about how it would be absolutely, positively necessary to resume the inspections for evidence of nuclear arms-making before there could be any talk of lifting the sanctions: "Let the inspectors in … " he said. "Until [Saddam] does that, I think we have to be firm. We have to be vigilant and I will be carrying this message to my friends in the region."

Well, maybe not that firm, or that vigilant. Once he heard the Arab bluster, which is enough to rattle any sane man, the secretary of state agreed that maybe the sanctions could be eased a little. But yesterday the Arabs were telling him to stick it in his ear, and Saddam says he won't allow the inspectors back under any circumstances.

Christie Whitman, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, sends George W. a rewrite of what he thinks about global-warming hype. "He has been very clear that the science is good on global warming," Mrs. Whitman told interviewer Robert Novak on CNN. Mr. Novak told her, nicely, that she was wrong and reminded her that George W. spent a good part of last year mocking Al Gore's faith in shaky science. Does George W. know what he thinks, or does Christie Whitman know what he thinks?

Some of George W.'s friends think they see a pattern. John Ashcroft goes to Capitol Hill to tell the Congressional Black Caucus that they know better than he does what he ought to think of racial profiling. Mr. Ashcroft, sounding as if he had found a memorandum of talking points left behind by Janet Reno, says he had talked to his boss about racial profiling and if Congress doesn't do what the Congressional Black Caucus tells it to do, why, he'll do it himself.

"This is as big a problem as you can get," he says, sounding like a thoroughly housebroken attorney general. Some of us, black and white, thought the nation's security or finding a cure for cancer or AIDS could be a bigger problem than dismantling an abusive roadblock on the highway.

You can't blame conservatives for noticing little things. They've learned that Republicans tend to leap under beds and jump into closets at the first rumble of distant Democratic thunder, and it's true that the graveyards of Washington are full of preppies who imagined they could hustle The Washington Post. And it's true that George W. is a Yalie, where arugula and little fish sticks are regarded as red-blooded fare.

But he's a graduate as well of public schools in Midland, Texas, where ham, ram, lamb, bull, beef and bear are routine grub. George W.'s nervous friends should chill out. Let him enjoy a plate or two of Katharine Graham's collards, adjusted to Georgetown taste. He's only been the president for a month. We shouldn't get our feelings hurt. Not yet.


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