Politics

Grits and Glitz

By From the March 1993 issue

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Historians will record that the 1993 Clinton inauguration actually began the year before in early November. Scarcely had the votes been counted when lobbyists, pitchmen, political groupies, and Democratic hopefuls began to flood Washington, D.C. Suddenly the capital's fashionable hotel lounges and watering holes were crammed with overweight, backslapping, pinkie-ringed redneck hustlers from Southern and border states and some of the more remote backwaters of the Midwest, all with something to buy from or sell to the incoming administration.

Hard on the heels of the slick-hick brigade came the bi-coastal limousine liberal set. Film stars, record and studio executives, media moguls and Wall Street operators, they all shared two things in common: conspicuous consumption and conspicuous unction, their minks, diamonds, stretch limos, flaunted riches, and appalling manners apparently rendered politically correct by their willingness to call for more middle-class sacrifice. Bringing up the rear came the special interest groups. At least this bunch was sincere; they had worked hard to elect Bill Clinton and he had bent over backwards to accommodate their desires. Agree with them or not, they really had something to celebrate.

But there is something sad and ridiculous about the milling mobs of shrill ultra-feminists, in-your-face gay militants, well-heeled homeless advocates, designer-attired environmentalists, and self-serving ethnic hucksters. As I mentioned to a lesbian on her way to an unofficial gay inaugural ball being held in—of all places—the National Press Club, "I'm an Armenian myself, but I don't think I'd be particularly thrilled to spend an entire inaugural night in a ballroom crammed full of nothing but other Armenians."

The administration that had boasted of fielding a cabinet that "looked like America" had produced an inaugural turnout that looked as if it had been recruited exclusively from Hollywood, Manhattan, Cambridge, and Dogpatch. The middle had dropped out of Bill Clinton's inaugural America. But then what should we have expected from a President who looks like a cross between the young W.C. Fields and a dissipated version of the Pillsbury Doughboy, and a Vice President so wooden he may be the first official in the history of the Republic to die in office of Dutch Elm Disease?

Minding my own business and heading for a stirrup cup in the Fairfax Bar at the Ritz Carlton—the Vice President's boyhood home—I nearly collided with a dumpy little figure encased in a dark hood and cape. Emerging from the shadows under the hood was the unmistakable Streisand honker. Elsewhere in the lobby, Lauren Bacall was being rude to someone and Warren Beatty was doing his pathetic best to look intelligent while carrying on a political conversation.

Fortunately, the Dewar's and soda flowed freely, the music was mellow, and, being on friendly terms with the beleaguered barmaids, I was given splendid service and soon was dreamily looking forward to four years of exuberant attack journalism. Between the pudgy First Pol, his contentious consort Hurricane Hillary, and the vice-presidential First Tree, there should be no end of fun.

Every twelve years or so, I reckoned, people need to be reminded of just how awful Democratic administrations can be, and Republicans need a sabbatical to shed deadwood, recharge their batteries, and draw a fresh bead on their old, eternal enemy, Big Brother. As the night of the living white trash turned to dawn, I edged past a carping middle-aged couple who had misplaced their stretch limo, spotted a familiar Pakistani cab driver—a fellow admirer of the late, great Mohammed Ali Jinnah—and reached home just as the sun was rising on the first day of Bill Clinton's decline.

 

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About the Author

Aram Bakshian Jr. served as an aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan and writes frequently on politics, history, gastronomy, and the arts.