Bush should be thankful it's only Perot investigating him

Mike Royko

June 26, 1992|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

President Bush, a sensitive guy, is angered that Ross Perot once had a private eye snoop into his business practices and those of his family. That was back when Bush was vice president.

Bush's indignation is understandable. Nobody likes the idea of someone poking around his or her closets for skeletons.

But that's the way politics is today. Sleaze, sleaze, sleaze. Gossip, gossip, gossip. Dirt, dirt, dirt.

I'm sure Bush's nostrils would quiver with disdain if he knew what was going on in an office not very far from the White House.

In this office, several dozen people work full time pumping tons of material into a big computer.

The material is fed to them by hundreds of operatives all over the country.

The computer swallows the material, then sorts it out. And when someone wants something nasty about this person or that, they punch in the victim's name and out pops the dirt.

But maybe Bush knows about it already. He should. The office is part of the Republican National Committee. It's sort of Sleaze Central.

It's said to be a very efficient operation. Any Democrat who aspires to national office goes into the computer. And anything he says or does that can be used against him is snatched up by the national network of peepers and snoopers and fed to the main office.

Naturally, the Republicans deny that they're in the dirt business, heh-heh. They say they merely track the voting records, public utterances and political positions taken by potential opponents.

Sure. But they haven't let any outsiders give the computer a few pokes to see what it burps up.

So you can bet that if you typed Perot and hit the enter key, the printer would clatter for the rest of the day. By now, they have done everything but have Perot's fingernail scrapings analyzed.

And as this campaign goes on, whatever they have on Perot will come out. Of course, they won't hold a press conference and announce that their computer has spit out a goody. They'll do what any self-respecting political operative does: leak it to some media outlet so they can stand in the background and say, "Tsk, tsk, how shocking."

The same goes for Bill Clinton and whoever is suicidal enough to be his running mate.

But none of this should be a surprise to Bush. After all, he was once head of the CIA, so he should be familiar with all sorts of snooping. If he isn't, what was he doing as our top snooper?

And as a Republican and the ultimate Washington insider, he should know that his party is far more expert at this sort of thing than the Democrats. Remember what Watergate was all about: Republican snoops breaking into Democratic headquarters to bug telephones.

Sure, the Democrats try the same thing, and wish they were as efficient as the Republicans, but they aren't. They are such bumblers. Why, when the blond bimbo surfaced in Clinton's life, the jaws of Democrats dropped in amazement. But the Republicans weren't surprised. They knew all about her. She probably occupied at least one megabyte in their computer.

What probably bothers Bush and the Republicans about Perot's alleged snooping is that he appears to be far more efficient than the Democrats.

L Worse, he appears mean enough to match them trick for trick.

Or it could mean that Bush and his people are apprehensive about a magazine article out this month that is sure to be the talk of Washington. Which means that it will find its way into the tabloid press and into the mainstream media, and finally out here to the boonies.

Yes, we might as well say it because it will soon be common knowledge. There will be a magazine article that alleges that Bush has, from time to time, been something of a romantic fellow, if you know what I mean. And I'm sure Gary Hart catches the drift.

This will be a first in modern political history. For some reason, it's the Democrats who are always accused of such hanky-panky, never the Republicans. It makes you wonder why the Republicans haven't become extinct for lack of a reproductive urge.

One explanation might be that any suggestion that Gerald Ford or Richard Nixon had an eye for the ladies would have made people giggle. And with a terror like Nancy watching him, Ronald Reagan probably felt nervous smiling at Margaret Thatcher.

But Republicans think of themselves as being more proper than Democrats, and their candidates like to reflect that propriety. Family values, as J. Danforth Quayle puts it. Even Spiro Agnew, grafter that he turned out to be, was a grafter with family values. And when a conservative Republican congressman from Illinois was revealed to have been bedding a teen-age congressional page, the first thing he did was appear with his family to weep and express remorse.

Actually, Bush should feel fortunate that he's been snooped by Perot.

If he was a Democrat and the Republicans had been looking through his laundry hamper, by now he'd probably be living in a YMCA and ducking a process server.

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