President's theme song reveals ominous lyrics

MIKE ROYKO

February 08, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

His eyes were glazed, and a strange sound seemed to be coming from the direction of Slats Grobnik, causing several other patrons to look down the bar curiously.

After a nudge, he said: "Huh, what's doin'?"

Are you all right?

"Yeah, sure, why?"

Well, you seemed distracted and were making a groaning sound.

"Nah, I was just trying to do some positive thinking. So I was singing the new national anthem."

What new anthem?

"You know, President Clinton's big theme song. The one from that Cadillac Jack."

You mean Fleetwood Mac.

"Whatever. It's the one where you're supposed to keep thinking about tomorrow and you'll feel better. You want me to sing it?"

You actually know it?

"Sure. I figured that if it's part of what makes Clinton and his wife tick, I ought to memorize it so I know what to expect. So I sing it to myself."

Has it given you positive thinking?

"Well, to tell the truth, it's kind of a stupid song."

In what way?

"Well, it starts out like this: 'If you wake up and don't want to smile, if it takes just a little while, open your eyes and look at the day, you'll see things in a different way.' Now, you see what I mean?"

See what?

"It says that if I wake up and I ain't smiling, I should open my eyes. What's that supposed to mean? For one thing, it's unnatural to smile when you wake up. Even babies know that, which is why the first thing they do is cry. And when I wake up, I always open my eyes. That's part of waking up. If I didn't open my eyes, instead of walking into the bathroom, I'd walk through the wrong doorway and fall down the basement steps and break my neck."

That's possible. But the rest of the song expands on the message.

"Yeah, I know. 'Don't stop thinking about tomorrow. Don't stop. It'll soon be here. It'll be here, better than before. Yesterday's gone. Yesterday's gone. Oh, don't you look back.' Now, how's that for dumb?"

Not at all. It seems to be promising that better times are coming.

"Wait a minute. When I wake up in the morning, why should I start thinking about tomorrow when the rest of today is more than enough for me to worry about? And all I know for sure about tomorrow is that if I live that long, I'll be one day older. So what's to cheer about?"

There's some truth in that.

"So I wake up. The first thing I want is some coffee, not to start thinking about tomorrow. Then I bring in the paper and read it. The news is depressing because it's about a new crisis or somebody else's problems or somebody getting shot. And it's never somebody who deserves it that gets shot. You ought to tell your editors to find stories about real rotten people getting shot so we can be more cheerful in the morning."

I'll pass that along.

"And then there's the part of the song that says: 'Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone. Don't you look back.' Hey, that's all right for him to say."

Who?

"Clinton. Don't look back, huh? With all those bodyguards, maybe he don't have to look back. But any time I leave the house, I look back to make sure there ain't no kid needing a fast cash flow sneaking up behind me."

I think the song is saying that we should not dwell on the past, that we should look ahead to a brighter future.

"That figures, because he's part of that boom-boom babies generation, and they never look back because they think the whole history of the world started the day they was born."

Or with the birth of rock 'n' roll.

"Maybe with Super Bowl I. Anyway, here's the part of the song that bothers me the most: 'All I want is to see you smile, if it takes just a little while. I know you don't want to believe it's true. I never meant any harm to you.' Now that makes me nervous about Clinton."

Why? It seems harmless enough.

"Uh-uh. He's already apologizing. Listen to this again: 'I know you don't want to believe it's true. I never meant any harm to you.' You know what that tells me?"

What?

"New taxes. It sounds like that line about how, hey, this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you. Which is a lie. When the nurse or the doc sticks the needle in me, I don't hear them yell. So I think Clinton likes that song because he's saying he's gonna stick it to me, but he can't help himself, and I should not be mad."

And I think you are reading more into this than the obvious fact that Clinton doesn't have very good taste in lyrics. Which, if you listen to one of his speeches, should be obvious.

"No, there's another line that makes me nervous. It goes: 'If your life was bad today, just think what tomorrow will do.' "

See? An optimistic message. Tomorrow will be brighter. Another way of saying that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

"Uh-huh. But remember that other line about the light at the end of the tunnel."

What line is that?

"It might be a train coming your way."

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