NEW YORK — When Dave Barry booked his summer vacation in New York, little did he know the Democratic National Convention was scheduled for the same time. A lesser man would have pretended not to notice, but Dave, supremely devoted to his craft, insisted on covering the proceedings. Selfless Dave will report on the convention this week while his family is busy tossing down lobster salad at four-star restaurants.
New York -- I finally caught up with the New Hillary Clinton. She has replaced the Old Hillary Clinton, who was unpopular with the public because she was going around discussing the issues and acting forceful and just generally appearing to have opinions.
This is, of course, unacceptable to the American public, which prefers its political wives to have a stay-in-the-background, stand-by-your-man, worshipful-gaze-type of personality, as epitomized by Pat Nixon and most Labrador retrievers.
So a few months ago, when the Clinton campaign was faltering, party officials had Hillary abducted and taken to the top-secret Housewife Indoctrination Clinic, operated by Betty Crocker, where Hillary was subjected to thousands of hours of "Ozzie and Harriet" reruns and given massive intravenous doses of Lemon Pledge.
When she emerged she looked like the Old Hillary, but she was no longer shooting her mouth off about matters that frankly do not concern persons of the gal gender, such as the U.S. government.
When I caught up with the New Hillary, she was talking about cookies. This took place in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Hillary was host at a tea for the wives of Democratic congresspersons.
There were a dozen or so little round tables, at which congressional wives were sitting and drinking tea under the watchful scrutiny of the standard roped-off massive-overkill mooing press herd, taking notes and thrusting cameras with an intensity appropriate for earthquakes measuring at least 9 on the Richter scale.
The wives burst into applause when the New Hillary entered the room with her New Friend, Tipper Gore. Fashion-wise, they were both wearing what I would describe as "outfits." Hair-wise, Hillary had what a seasoned journalist informed me was a "blunt cut," whereas Tipper had a "page boy." They are both blond, but Tipper is blonder and has better Family Values as measured by opposition to dirty songs.
Tipper has been opposed to dirty songs since 1985, when she and one of her daughters were listening to a Prince record and a dirty part came on, and Tipper -- realizing that the only alternative would have been to turn off the record player -- wisely decided to have her husband, Al, hold Senate hearings. The happy result is that today's dirty recordings carry warning labels, thereby enabling impressionable young people to find them more easily.
So the Democrats are hoping Tipper will be a strong campaign asset in the Family Values department, although she might be hurt by revelations that back during the 1960s -- when many young people were doing this kind of thing -- she experimented with listening to "Louie Louie." She did not enjoy it, however, and she never had any sound vibrations actually penetrate her inner ear.
But getting back to the New Hillary: She told the congressional wives that Family Circle magazine has gotten her into a contest against Barbara Bush to see who has the best chocolate-chip-cookie recipe. I am not making this campaign development up. Hillary told the wives to please vote for her cookie recipe, and they all applauded some more.
Then Hillary started talking about the Clinton-Gore ticket, and her voice started getting forceful, and it appeared that she was about to bring up some actual issues when her Democratic Party handlers, just out of sight, hit her with a tranquilizing dart, and the moment of danger was past. I'll have more on the cookie-recipe contest if I get truly desperate.
You will be relieved to learn that the American Samoa delegation finally made it to New York. I spoke with a delegation member, Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, who is listed in the Democrats' official press information guide as a "congresswoman," although he informed me that he is actually a man.
I have no reason to disbelieve him, although he was wearing what appeared to be a skirt. He told me it was not a skirt, it was a "lava-lava." That satisfied me, but I don't know how well it'll go over on the subway.
In other developments: The Democrats have a platform and are experiencing unity. Stay tuned.