Clinton shouldn't waste time on fancy dinners

June 10, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Over and over, we hear that the nagging by Republicans, the media and former female acquaintances should end and President Clinton should be allowed to do the job for which he was elected.

We're told that he should not be distracted by the Whitewater questions, the lawsuit by the shapely Paula Jones, new disclosures by the even more shapely Gennifer Flowers and other irritants.

I'm in favor of everyone doing the job for which they are hired and paid, whether it is a corporate CEO, a bartender or a kid who mows the lawn.

So I would be delighted and relieved if President Clinton could be spared distractions to concentrate on solving our many domestic problems while protecting us and our allies from the perils of foreign wackos.

But maybe the president and his staff should take a look at his schedule and decide what is important and what isn't. Sort of the old concept of the time and motion study.

Most people do this instinctively. If you work hard eight or nine hours a day, you shuffle home most weeknights, kick off your shoes, play with the kids, read or watch some TV, get a good night's sleep and are clear-eyed in the morning.

Maybe you stop for a beer after work, or sip a drink on the commuter train. But weeknights are not considered big social times. Not with a job waiting in the morning. That's why weekends are such an important part of life.

So I was surprised by a letter I received in this morning's mail.

The return address on the envelope was a simple three words: "The White House."

Inside was a spiffily printed formal invitation:

"The President and Mrs. Clinton request the pleasure of the company of Mr. Royko at dinner on Wednesday, June 15, 1994 at 7:00 o'clock.

"Movie to follow."

Seeing the invitation, my first reaction was: "A Wednesday night? I don't go out to dinner on Wednesday nights because I work all day Wednesday and I have to get up Thursday morning and work."

And I can't conceive of going all the way to Washington, D.C., just for a free meal. Even with a movie to follow. Since nine of 10 movies stink, the odds are I won't like it.

So I called and declined the opportunity to dine with the president and, presumably, the brilliant lady from Park Ridge, Ill.

It's not that I want to be ungracious. I am flattered at being invited to dinner at the White House. Sort of. Maybe. Actually, I'm not at all flattered, since I know it is a political game.

There is absolutely no reason for the president to invite me to dine at the White House, and to watch an after-dinner movie. (I prefer after-dinner hooch.)

After a hard day in the world's toughest job, the president should go upstairs, flop on a couch, yank off his tie and say: "Well, Hillary, how'd it go today? Kid get home from school OK? What's for dinner?"

He shouldn't be sitting tensely at a long dining table, trying to remember what his public relations people told him: "Uh, this schnook is from Chicago, a columnist, yeah, and Hillary read some of his junk as a teen-ager, and I should mention that, so maybe this gullible goof will be dazzled to be here in the White House and will write something nice about us."

It's part of the political game and I understand that. Among Washington journalists -- especially those who get to jabber on TV -- being invited to chow at the White House affirms their success and importance.

But for me, Wednesday and the next morning are workdays. And for the president, they should be, too. If the job is as demanding as reported, he shouldn't be wasting tax-paid grub on me.

He should spend his Wednesday nights like most working Americans: relaxing, resting, maybe thinking about the next day's pains in the butt. That is what his yuppie advisers should be telling him: Put your time to its best use.

But having me for dinner? If my wife doesn't like having me for dinner, why should Bill and Hillary?

You wanted the job, so do the job and quit goofing around. If you're in Chicago, I'll gladly buy you a fast beer, but that's it. I'm busy, so are you. Get to work, kid.

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