The Breakfast Table

The Wonder of Third-World Love

Dear Michael,

Yes, that Christine Todd Whitman photo in yesterday’s Times was extraordinary. Eerie, too, the way she’s dressed in luminous white from head to toe–her jacket, her slacks, her tennis shoes–while the guy she’s frisking is not only black but black-clad. I don’t know why I’m pointing this out, but it’s also striking how, in the blurry photo, Whitman looks so much like Princess Diana. I think this has been said about her before. Together, the angelic glow and cheerful smile make things worse for her, rather than better, I think: It highlights the emotional distance between her and the guy being frisked. Like, I’m sure it wasn’t such a lark for him. To me, even more chilling that the stupid photo-op is the ostensible reason for it: According to one lawyer quoted, a police supervisor offered an extra week of paid vacation to anybody who could bring back a photo of Whitman frisking a black suspect. The bastards set her up. Her own police force. Thanks, guys!

So anyway, why is this photo being distributed? Why was it subpoenaed now? And who’s been keeping it on hand? Why has it emerged three weeks before the Republican convention? Who, exactly, is trying to destroy her political fortunes? I wish that news stories would point these things out a little more clearly.

Speaking of political fortunes, don’t you wish you would wake up one morning, look in your bank account, and find that you have way more money than you ever dreamed possible? More money than (you uneasily reflect) you really ought to have, given everything you’ve traditionally stood for? How should we feel about the fact that this has happened to the Democrats? I mean, is it a good thing that–according to stories in both the Post and the Times–congressional Democrats recently totted up all their various financial holdings for the fall races, only to find that lo and behold, all that time spent away from the nations’ business paid off, all those coffees and teas and rubber-chicken fund-raisers, with the result that they have MORE money than congressional Republicans? Isn’t this a reversal of some sort of natural order? Aren’t Republicans always supposed to be the people with the money? Aren’t Democrats always supposed to be the people picking on them for it? Bringing us back to our theme: Who is the counter culture? Who is the underdog? Are there any anymore? Underdogs?

Moreover, WHERE has all this money come from? I don’t just mean the Democrats’ money, I mean all the money washing around the country, great gobs of money, huge giant whorls of money: money in Congress, money in the federal treasury, money in mutual funds, money in Internet startups, money for Metallica to press its case against Napster (priceless quote from a Post editorial: “It is … sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is.”) I think it hasn’t been emphasized enough that the central debate of the presidential campaign is all this money we have. Where was this money 10 years ago? Under mattresses? Has more money been recently printed? And doesn’t it make things incredibly easy for Bush and Gore: Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to lose a race where all you have to do, really, is come up with the most popular spending plan? (Hmmm: Which shoes do I want? The pumps or the slides? Heck! I’ll take them both!) As opposed to, say, a plan for bringing the boys home from war?

Meanwhile, another classic third-world death. Yesterday it was garbage dumps collapsing in Manila. Today, a hundred impoverished Nigerians burned to death as they were trying to collect a little oil from a pipeline spill.

Most compelling front-page quote, from a Post story about victims of the Oklahoma bombing visiting victims of the Kenya bombing. Says one American: “I have been amazed that they love their kids, they love their spouses, just like we do.”