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The Rules, Washington Edition

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All of the above would be nonsense except that almost nothing any longer is. Nonsense is the new standard for controversy; and even party shenanigans qualify.

Puritans and prohibitionists would adore our brave new world of shutterbug infamy. The fact is, no one's having fun anymore, especially in the nation's capital, where one can't afford to let the tongue slip or risk being caught in the cross hairs of a cell camera.

Political veterans have learned, sometimes the hard way. This new generation -- the Obama cohort -- needs to review The Rules. Smart grown-ups in Washington don't get drunk in public. A glass of wine is a prop that rarely gets drained.

At a small, private dinner recently, where wine flowed freely (and no one took pictures), conversation turned to the day when politicos and others routinely enjoyed three-martini lunches. How did they do that? Not just the drinking, but the escape from scrutiny?

It was all about time. In low-tech America, people had time to sober up. There was no e-mail light blinking to demand your immediate attention, no insistent cell phones blasting "Fur Elise" into one's pocket or purse; no 24/7 news producers demanding instant responses to urgent claims and counterclaims. Several hours -- or even a few days -- could pass before anyone had to Do Something.

For all the gratification and convenience of real-time everything, downtime was underappreciated while it lasted. Even 10 years ago, BBB would have been vaguely recalled over Bloody Marys -- and quickly forgotten. Now young men goofing around are immortalized as misogynist maulers, portentous reminders to the rest of us that the gender wars won't end until irreverence and humor are dead.

In the meantime, feminists might channel their free-ranging anger toward, say, Iran, where yet another woman recently was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

And Facebookers might heed the saloon owner's orders: Check your weapons at the door. Cameras are lethal.

kparker@kparker.com


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