Principles spout highest from cold six-pack of beer

ROGER SIMON

May 16, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

Bill Clinton began his news conference on Friday by saying: "I has been a good week."

At first, I wasn't sure what he was talking about. His popularity is down. War rages in Bosnia. And inflation is creeping back up.

But now I have figured it out. President Clinton must have been referring to how his brother, Roger, allegedly tried to strangle a Wall Street stockbroker at a Knicks game in New York last Wednesday.

Generally speaking, America can't have too few stockbrokers (though picking sides in a contest between Roger Clinton and Wall Street is like picking sides in the Iran-Iraq war).

According to New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, this is what happened:

Devin Arkison, 28, a stockbroker, says Roger Clinton grabbed him by the throat, held him in a choke hold and scratched his face while screaming dirty words at him.

"It's like, I can't breathe," Arkison said (which is apparently the way stockbrokers talk these days.) "He looked like an animal. He looked like a raving lunatic."

According to witnesses, Arkison may have triggered the attack by saying to Roger Clinton: "Bill's outta here in three years, and your 15 minutes of fame are almost up."

Roger Clinton told the Post, however, that Arkison kept calling his brother an unprintable word.

"And I took it and I took it and finally took my arm on his shoulder and squeezed it and said, 'Don't you bad-mouth my brother anymore.' He was being very crude and I had my girlfriend with me and my principles are such that when people are insulting my brother or my mother, I felt I had to say something."

Madison Square Garden officials say that Roger had to be restrained by his own security guards.

After the incident, a Manhattan lawyer allegedly said: "I can't believe this is the president's brother."

But that is where I tend to lose some faith in the accuracy of the account. All the Manhattan lawyers I know would have said: "Everybody lie down and claim whiplash and we can all make a bundle!"

What really caused this fracas to break out, however? It is only wild speculation on my part, but I wonder if beer might have been an influencing factor on one or more of the individuals.

It was a ballgame. It was a warm night. And drinking beer at sporting events is an American tradition.

In fact, drinking beer any place is an American tradition. There are more than 80 million beer drinkers in America, and 30 million drink more than one six-pack each week. (How many drink more than one six-pack each basketball game is a closely guarded trade secret.)

Drunk in excess, beer can influence behavior. I base this purely on anecdotal evidence. My own experience from attending sporting events is that this is the typical argument when nobody is drinking beer.

First Fan: I think the ref made a lousy call.

Second Fan: Really? I think the ref made a good call.

And this is the typical argument after people have had some beers:

First Fan: I'm gonna kill the ref and I'm gonna kill you and then I'm gonna kill everybody who laughed at me in high school!

Second Fan: Where's my gun? Who's got my gun? Did I leave it at the post office? Damn!

The irony of all this is that according to the Wall Street Journal, the Clinton administration is leaning toward exempting beer from the "sin taxes" it is going to propose to pay for its health care plan.

Why tax wine and whiskey but not beer? First, beer has a better image than other forms of alcohol.

Wine drinkers are usually thought of as snooty yuppies (except for those who drink directly from bottles hidden in paper sacks and often do so from a supine position), and drinkers of hard liquor are looked upon as serious boozers.

Second, beer has a more slick and powerful lobby. Beer drinkers, according to a briefing paper prepared by Anheuser-Busch, are "salt of the earth" men and women "who are working hard to build their careers, their families and their financial futures."

How beer aids in these endeavors, I am not sure. But the lobby apparently has convinced the Clinton administration that any increase in taxes would be an unfair restraint on beer drinkers.

Unfair restraints on Roger Clinton are still under active consideration, however.

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