Big issues 'Here' make folks 'Out There' yawn

March 11, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

You probably don't realize it, but most of us live in a place called "Out There."

The land of Out There is huge. It sprawls from the warm tip of Florida to the frigid Canadian border, and from New York to Los Angeles.

In fact, it includes everything in this country except Washington, D.C., and the surrounding suburbs where the politicians, federal bureaucrats and news people make their homes.

This much tinier community of Washington is known as "Here."

I've become aware of this geographic distinction by watching the various Washington-based TV shows that feature big-time news pundits who discuss the great issues of the day.

On most of these shows, one of the pundits will say: "Is this something that they care about out there or is it something that only we care about here ?"

The idea is that if the people who live Out There don't care, then the issue might be less important than those who live Here realize.

An example is the Whitewater affair, which has just about everybody of importance in Washington in a tizzy.

But when Whitewater is discussed on TV, the question is still asked: Does anyone Out There really care?

As a lifelong resident of Out There, I think I can answer that question: Yes, no, maybe and who knows?

Most of us who live here, which means Out There, are not as obsessed by the Whitewater affair as those who live there, which means Here.

For one thing, most of us Out There don't understand what it is all about. We are waiting for those who live Here to explain it to us.

But that's a problem because those who live Here, which means there, don't seem to understand it too well, either.

As far as I can tell, there is a suspicion that back in their Arkansas days, the Clintons did something unethical and now they are trying to cover it up.

But what they did isn't clear, except that they invested in a bum real estate deal in Arkansas with a banker-friend who turned out to be wild and crazy with other people's money. He is no longer the Clintons' friend and has become kind of a seedy local kook. That's life in the fast lane.

There are also questions about lawyer Hillary serving on boards of big corporations that gave money to her husband's political campaigns, handling legal matters that put her on both sides of the fence and maybe fudging on income tax.

So how do most of us Out There, which means just about everywhere, feel about this?

Well, in Chicago, which is part of Out There, most people are less concerned with this issue than they are over the question of whether Michael Jordan should keep trying to hit a baseball, or come back and rescue the Bulls from total collapse.

They are also concerned about their schools, children, cars, paychecks and mortgage payments; cholesterol level, sodium intake and pains in their joints, chest, and sinuses; the arrogant bully who is their boss and whether they should splurge on a new set of heel-toe weighted irons.

It's not that they are indifferent to the great issues of the day that send the McGoofy Group into a tizzy. But most people lead normal lives, which means that they don't hang on every word uttered at every Washington press conference. While C-SPAN has a devoted following, it can't compete with Oprah or even Geraldo.

Then there is the shock factor. And so far Whitewater doesn't have it.

Most people Out There know that Clinton is a lawyer and has spent most of his adult life in politics. Hillary was a big-time corporate lawyer and political wife in Arkansas.

Is anyone going to gasp and collapse at the thought that a pair of successful lawyer-politicians might have engaged in practices that were -- eek -- unethical? Of course not. It is assumed that politicians and lawyers are capable of being unethical, or why would they embarrass themselves and their loved ones by taking up these trades?

If anyone ran for office by saying, "I have never done anything unethical, dishonest, or fibbed in my whole life, and I never will, honest to goodness, cross my heart and hope to die," he would immediately be branded a shameless liar and a fraud and would suffer a crushing defeat.

No, most of us who live Out There have become almost shockproof. A new serial killer has trouble crashing the front page, so who gets bug-eyed about details of a failed real estate development on an Arkansas trout stream?

During his campaign, it came out that Clinton had been a draft-dodger and quite possibly was a chronic bed-hopper. That was so shocking that he was elected president of the United States.

Since the election, his old Arkansas bodyguards have told lurid stories of Clinton sneaking out of the governor's mansion for late-night hanky-panky in, among other places, school parking lots.

And that was met by a national yawn.

So why should anyone expect the great population Out There to be excited over murky ethical, legal and financial questions that most lawyers and CPAs would have trouble understanding?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: What Washington needs is its own baseball team. It would give the McGoofy Group something to think about.

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