INSIDE THE BELTWAY: It may be hard to believe, but sometimes a statement from a politician is just a statement

An old joke popped into my head this week as at least three news stories reminded us that in Washington, at least, things are never - not seldom, but never - what they seem.

An old joke popped into my head this week as at least three news stories reminded us that in Washington, at least, things are never - not seldom, but never - what they seem.

An old joke popped into my head this week as at least three news

stories reminded us that in Washington, at least, things are never - not

seldom, but never - what they seem.



In the joke, two psychiatrists share an elevator one morning on the way

up to their offices, when a stranger gets on and says cordially to the

two, ’Good morning.’ When they reached their floor one of the

psychiatrists turns to the other and asks, ’Now what do you suppose he

meant by that?’



Here in the capital of the free world, the media always want to know

’what he meant by that,’ and are never ready to assume the simple and

obvious solution. Occam’s Razor, in other words, doesn’t shave any of

our analysts.



As the first example, Vice President Gore was revealed as having

agonized, as a college student, in letters to his girlfriend (now wife)

Tipper, whether to volunteer for service in Vietnam in spite of the

overwhelming scorn it would generate from his fellow students.



It would have been easy, as the son of a senator, to avoid service by

using family influence to get into the National Guard, as two of his

future opponents (George W. Bush and Dan Quayle) chose to do. Or, he

could have chosen to escape serving through the intercession of a friend

in the military, as Bill Clinton did. After some soul-searching, Gore

chose to volunteer.



This being Washington, the media promptly wondered if he did it to help

his father (an anti-war leader) get re-elected. The notion that Gore

might have been seriously conflicted or patriotically bent hardly

crossed any pundit’s mind.



Similarly, George W. Bush was asked his opinion of Republican

congressional leaders’ proposal to reach a balanced budget by postponing

payment of the Earned Income Tax Credit to the working poor until fiscal

year 2000.



Bush responded, almost offhandedly, ’I don’t think they should balance

the budget on the backs of the poor.’ This remark caused fury and wonder

in the ranks of the GOP leadership and conjecture by the political

analysts over whether George W. had this as a motive - to distance

himself from the Lotts and DeLays of his party. But maybe he simply

meant he didn’t like the plan - it was too tough on the poor.



And Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura told Playboy magazine that he

thought religion was ’for the weak.’ He added, if he were to return to

Earth after death, he would prefer to do so as a ’38D bra.’ Can we

assume he was pandering to the atheist and anti-feminist vote?



Nobody, it seems, gets to be taken at face value. Oscar Wilde had it

right: ’It is a shallow man who does not judge by appearances.’



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