Perhaps ignorance is bliss with politics

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Monday, November 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

The Friday before Election Day, a friend handed me a book.

"Here," she said. "Take this for the weekend. You’ll love it." She was right.

I have yet to return her copy of "America’s First Families: An Inside View of 200 Years of Private Life in the White House" (Touchstone; $18). Publication of the book coincided with the White House bicentennial Nov. 1.

Carl Sferrazza Anthony’s book is packed with what some call trivia. To me, the photos and written accounts of White House life are treasures.

My favorite picture shows a pensive President George Bush reading a newspaper in bed, his hair tousled, his guard down.

The author writes that Theodore Roosevelt once lectured reporters, "My children are not freaks. When I go out to play tennis with my children, it is not a matter of public interest."

I spent hours soaking up these lesser known histories, readying myself for whatever — whomever — last Tuesday would bring. We would wake up Wednesday and there’d be a new president-elect, a new family to get to know.

No one was ready for what Wednesday did bring. We’re now in a second week of not knowing. Who will take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? The real quandary, inconceivable 10 days ago, is how that question will be decided.

I’ve gone back and forth. Recounts, by machine or hand, as many as needed, seem fair. Another vote, by tiny clusters of Floridians who couldn’t get it right Nov. 7, does not seem fair.

Part of me favors a prompt and graceful exit by the vice president, but it’s too late for that. Part of me wants Al Gore to hang in there for voters’ sake.

I don’t know what’s right. Here’s what I do know:

  • We will all be chewing at the Thanksgiving table on a topic we’ve never before had to digest.

  • I am up-to-my-eyeballs sick of TV talking heads. If you caught James Carville and his politically opposite wife Mary Matalin Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press," talking about what’s best for their son (heaven help that kid), you know what I mean.

  • Mostly, I know I have a queasy feeling, a symptom of illusions being smashed.

    Remember all that Bill Clinton unpleasantness? Sure you do.

    One reason I enjoyed "America’s First Families" is that the book contains not a whiff of Gennifer Flowers or Paula Jones or Monica Lewinsky. What’s there of the Clintons is the appearance of family harmony, from Mom and Dad moving Chelsea into her Stanford dorm to the president and first lady slow dancing.

    I know things about President Clinton I wish I didn’t know. Give me illusion any day.

    Remember how it feels to vote? Sure you do. It feels like it matters, like it counts.

    We have lived through the unmasking of our president’s human imperfections. It felt awful. Now we’ll live through the exposure of imperfections in our voting process.

    In 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon chose not to challenge Sen. John F. Kennedy’s squeaker of a victory in Illinois. Some Republicans alleged that Chicago’s then-mayor, Richard Daley, might have manipulated votes.

    I can thumb through the book and see what happened. The unexamined election produced a Kennedy Camelot.

    On Jan. 20, someone will be moving into the White House. How is that going to feel?

    Less than perfect, even if you voted for the guy. Maybe ignorance is bliss after all.

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