Forget Y2K, '99 looking weird

December 09, 1998

You may be worried about Y2K. Me, I think we've got our hands full with Y99. I say this because more and more things are getting weird as we close in on the end of 1998.

For example, this week I heard an advertisement from Philip Morris urging people not to smoke cigarettes. And two days later I heard an anti-smoking advocate blasting Philip Morris for airing advertisements telling people not to smoke.

There were kids basically saying, "Hello, I just want to tell all you other kids out there that I am secure enough with myself that I do not need to smoke. Who needs to look cool? In fact, who needs friends? Not me. I don't care if all the glamorous kids smoke and that the only way to have any fun at all and any acceptance among my peers is to smoke. I don't need any of that."


And of course there was the activist, perceptively saying that Philip Morris was being less than genuine in its attempt to stop kids from lighting up.

Probably this is all part of the big tobacco settlement, in which smokers who have developed cancer through years of smoking can take comfort in knowing that a lot of big companies will have to give money to a lot of big governments. They will be just as dead, of course, but there has to be some satisfaction with the "moral victory" of seeing the tobacco companies lose money to a government that will then turn around and give it back in the form of tobacco subsidies.

This makes me feel so warm and fuzzy I wonder why we can't have the same type of horse trading in, say, the Clinton impeachment proceedings.

Couldn't we settle this in some practical way - the president would give the Republicans an important legislative victory in exchange for a little peace. There are parallels. Clinton lied under oath, the seven tobacco executives lied under oath. Clinton is shifty, the tobacco execs are shifty.

But where the tobacco executives are smart and Clinton is stupid is that the tobacco executives still understand the value of cash. Did Congress get offended when the tobacco executives lied to them? Did they try to prosecute them? Did they try to kick them out of their jobs? Oh no. Because without big tobacco there is no big tobacco money flowing into their campaign treasuries.

It's one thing to be a perjurer. It's quite another thing to be a perjurer who contributes to the re-election fund.

Since on Capitol Hill they play with cards of materialism and not cards of conscience, it leads me to think that Clinton might still have room to make a deal.

Suppose he went to Congress and said, "All right, you win. I will give you the capital gains tax if you drop the impeachment proceedings."

You think the fat cat, big money lobbying set would let their pals on the Hill be all moralistic over a little White House whoopee if there were billions of dollars in the balance? Ha!

Or how about this? Clinton says he will no longer veto partial birth abortion legislation in exchange for a mere censure. Think of all the lives that would be saved. Surely all that rescued humanity would be far more important than dogging a man who lied about an affair, no?

But for a president, he never seems to think of such practical solutions. Oh sure, he can bring peace to Ireland, but when it comes to prying himself out of the butter churn his leadership skills go south.

I suppose he is still trying to preserve what's left of his dignity. After all, no one would be well-served to reduce Clinton to the role of public service commercials.

"Hello. I just want to tell all you other presidents of free worlds out there that I am secure enough with myself that I don't need to look cool by hanging out with female groupies half my age..."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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