At last, it's a cat house!

Robert E. Wolfe

January 21, 1993|By Robert E. Wolfe

AT LAST the long national nightmare is over!

After 12 years of dubious White House occupants we are finally seeing the return of respect and decorum to that storm-tossed edifice.

I refer not to the three humans who moved in yesterday. Rather, I refer to Socks, the First Cat.

What a dreary decade it has been, with the likes of Millie and Lucky as First Pooches. And who can forget the pain and sorrow of Lyndon Johnson and his beagles, Him and Her? LBJ, you remember, picked them up by the ears occasionally, just for entertainment. He said it didn't hurt, but then we never heard Her's and Him's version.

A cat, of course, will not tolerate such indignities. There would be blood all over Pennsylvania Avenue! Socks will restore a modicum of grace and dignity to the place.

The name Socks may trouble some people as being too informal. It is OK for everyday use, but something a little less familiar is needed for state occasions. Socks is not short for Stockings (which would be acceptable for formal affairs). It's short for Socrates (Miss Socrates in this case), the very epitome of wisdom, and that name will do nicely when dignitaries are around. I understand that it is being engraved on all White House stationery.

That takes care of the nickname and the formal name, but as T.S. Eliot has pointed out, cats have a third name, known only to themselves. They never reveal it to anyone, not even the Secret Service, and certainly not to obnoxious newspeople. Dogs never get past the first stage in names. Most of them go through life thinking their name is Nice Doggie or Get Down. You never hear of a dog called Cleopatra or Sophocles, or even Plato, now do you?

Dogs have no place in a power center like Washington. They are much too eager to please, and their votes always go to the one with the most PAC money -- or bones.

Cats, on the other hand, cannot be bought or sold. They do what they believe is right and don't worry about the next election. They are more circumspect about their associates, and they have very few idols. They would never confer hero-ship on the likes of Ollie North, nor would they want to be seen fraternizing with members of the House or the Senate.

Don't expect to see Socks serving in any domestic capacity. Cats are much better on international affairs because of their penchant for traveling. Most of it is done at night, and sometimes cats are gone for days at a time. Frequently they get badly chewed up on these covert missions, but that does not deter them. (Of course, for security reasons the Secret Service may keep Socks close to home. She may not even be able to sniff out Lafayette Park across the street.)

Everything points to a slow (but sure) recovery of the economy in the U.S. I have no doubt that much of it is attributable to the quiet background work of cats. But cats, unlike dogs, do not place blame on previous house occupants, nor do they accept credit for good things that might accidentally have occurred in a dog administration.

So let's keep pulling for Socks, who may be the last, best First Cat in American history!

Robert E. Wolfe writes from Hampstead.

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