This is the difficult time of year when you are expected to accomplish something, to work, to strive, to produce, to be more than a parasitic, gelatinous sack of tissues and fluids and corpuscles. The calendar is without mercy. School has resumed; Congress reconvenes today; rush hour is surpassingly hideous once again; news is breaking; deals are going down; schemes are hatching. As we speak, corporate Godzillas are stomping across the land, feeling the urge to devour, merge, and spawn. We should all check, throughout the day, to make sure we haven't been purchased by Viacom.
The big news is Congress. The members are rested, relaxed, and ready to pander. The first order of business is for the Republicans to send to President Clinton a $792 billion tax cut measure that he has already promised to veto. This should take about a week to accomplish.
At that point everyone will have staked out the hardened position from which to attack and scold and lambaste the opposition. Legislation in America is a periodic side-effect of the much grander enterprise of rhetoric. After the veto, the Republicans must decide if they want to craft a compromise bill, or simply leave the vetoed bill on the table, slain, a martyr to the Republican cause.
Scanning the headlines, we must be vigilant for Significance and wary of its counterfeit. One always suspects that a faux Significance is being slathered on stories that in the long run will prove irrelevant and vaporous. How important is this Waco business? Might it be the late-summer stand-in for the genuine scandal of our dreams?
What's the meaning of President Clinton getting interviewed by an Independent Counsel (according to a just-moved AP news alert) in the "Alexis Herman case`? (Ancillary question: Are you a bad person if you don't remember the particulars of the Alexis Herman case?)
Should we worry about the 9-9-99 computer problem that arises at midnight tonight or is that a sign of millennial neurosis? (And why did the Post's computer system crash this morning just as we were preparing the big electronic midday extravaganza PM Extra? Coincidence? Sign of demonic intervention?)
What do we make of Yeltsin being implicated in a bribery scheme? Is that a big story or is bribery just another one of Yeltsin's eccentric, charming habits, like drinking to excess, making incomprehensible statements and periodically being reported on the verge of death?
How do we feel about the Boston Globe poll showing Bill Bradley in a dead heat with Al Gore in New Hampshire? What is the Significance of a poll taken nearly six months before the primary vote, which itself is supposedly the mere beginning of the larger nominating process? And wasn't it pretty cold of the Globe to forget to list Alan Keyes as a candidate?
Bradley popped up on Good Morning America today, being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. Bradley was cagey and diffident. He didn't mumble, exactly, but he kind of murmured, and seemed unenthused to be there, reticent, like he was containing secret wisdoms too lofty to be dispensed to the mass audience. He declined to say what he'd do about health care, because he's planning on unveiling that in a few weeks. I wanted to shout at the screen: You have my attention now! This is national television! Millions of people watch this show! Speak! SAY something.
If he keeps muttering inconclusively he'll NEVER get bought by Viacom.
Speaking of media madness: This morning I got an early peek at the inaugural issue of Regardie's Power. Unless my eyes deceive me, the cover shows a former male stripper flanked by two women in bikinis. He's Roy Jerasi, who owns the domain name to Americaonline.com - he's a cyber-squatter on domain names - and in the meantime runs a women's oil wrestling league in the Louisiana bayou. The magazine is full of hustlers, strivers, achievement-mongers.
In the Founder's Letter, Renay and Bill Regardie philosophize about passion, power, wealth, the American Dream. "To achieve spectacular results, you must have the passion to battle your way to the top, and then fight with every fiber of your being to stay there. It truly is an aphrodisiac.` So in other words this is not a subtle publication. To me it feels a bit 1980s, a bit Vanity Fair-ish, in its zealous interest in power and fame and money. But it's fun. A story on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club near Manassas is a fine tale of greed and swindling, and Rudy Maxa reports from St. Tropez that there's a new type of champagne for the jet set, called Platinum champagne (`I'd been wondering when the jet set was getting its own champagne!` Maxa exclaims.)
So check out Regardie's Power, and quickly, while its still fresh and local and crazy and not yet part of Viacom-CBS-Paramount-Blockbuster-Time-Warner-Turner-Disney Inc.
Rough Draft will appear on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays.