Every once in a while, a major newspaper does a long article on George W. Bush and his career as a businessman. I have read these pieces now in The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. They all say about the same thing, and they all have--in my vivid imagination--the same headline: "Eat Your Heart Out, Hillary."

I am referring, of course, to Mrs. Clinton. This is the very same Hillary Clinton who was pilloried--not too strong a word, I think--when it was disclosed that back in the late 1970s she played the futures market. She apparently put up $1,000 and made about $100,000--no real bargain, as it turned out. She's been paying for it every since.

How did she make that kind of money? The phrase that kept coming up in news accounts was "preferential treatment." The Post used it, the Times used it and so, I suppose, did nearly everyone else. There's a reason for that. It appears to be true.

Mrs. Clinton's account--32 trades in all--was supervised by a close friend, James B. Blair, and handled, in turn, by a friend of his, a broker by the name of Robert Bone. Blair was then the general counsel of Tyson Foods, a major Arkansas business, and Bill Clinton was the state's attorney general. When Hillary Clinton opened her trading account, her husband was only three weeks away from being elected governor. Even in Arkansas, you will be shocked to learn, businessmen do favors for politicians.

But now look at Bush's business history. It mostly consists of one rich guy after another doing favors for the son of one of Texas's most influential figures, George Bush. The father occupied one high office after another--congressman, Republican national chairman, CIA director, ambassador to China, vice president and, last, president. It turns out that if you can't get by with a little help from your friends, your father's will do just fine.

Consider how George W. got to buy the Texas Rangers. The seller, Eddie Chiles, was an old friend of President Bush and he wanted to sell to George W. The deal itself was partially brokered by baseball commissioner Peter V. Ueberroth, who asked Richard Rainwater, a Fort Worth investor, to put up the real money--"out of respect" for President Bush, the papers reported. Rainwater complied. In the end, Bush invested $606,000 and left with $14.9 million. Yet no one alleged that Rainwater was seeking a favor or that Bush ever granted him one.

On the other hand, plenty of people have alleged that Bill Clinton must have done a favor for someone in order for Hillary to make so much money in cattle futures. No proof has ever surfaced, even though the Clintons have been investigated by everyone except the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Not that it matters. When it comes to the Clintons, no proof is ever needed. They are guilty by virtue of appearances or something. In this case, I've been told by Clinton haters that Hillary was just plain bribed. Maybe, I reply, but if the $100,000 was the quid, where is the quo? I get a funny look. How naive can I be?

Well, plenty naive on occasion. But until a crime is proved--or even alleged--I have to wonder why Hillary Clinton's preferential treatment is such a scandal and George W.'s is not. Is it because of Whitewater, a mess about something no one can keep straight? Regardless, Whitewater sure has sullied the Clintons.

Is it because Hillary was sort of gambling while George W. was doing business? Could be, although speculators are hardly scorned in our society. Is it because Bill Clinton was a major political figure at the time? Maybe. But by then George Bush's papa was already an important national figure with considerable clout in his home state.

So what's the rule? Does it have to do with wealth and social class? Is it okay for the rich to use their connections to get richer but just plain stinky when others do the same? Does it have to do with gender--George W. doing what men have always done, Hillary playing a man's game or, worse, being a pawn of more powerful and clever men? Could be.

All I know is that if it weren't for "preferential treatment," George W. Bush's only way of becoming seriously rich would have been if he won the lottery--or played the futures market. As it happened, he didn't have to. He hit his number at birth. Eat your heart out, Hillary.