AllPolitics - TIME This Week

Household Finance

[Margaret Carlson]

By Margaret Carlson

(TIME, March 25) -- Whitewater will never be a mini-series--too much trailer park, too few Gulfstreams jetting to private islands, amounts in the low-six rather than high-seven figures, and a low quotient of hunks. That may explain why Democrats, who last May joined a 96-3 vote authorizing the ethically challenged Senator Alfonse D'Amato to chair the Whitewater Committee, now are holding firm against an open extension of the hearings. After eight months there's no smoking gun, no smoking anything, just a simmering stew of subdivided Ozark property without sewer lines and endless minutiae about closing costs and mortgage points. No one knows the protagonists--imagine trying to cast the pudgy David Hale, a confessed felon and owner of a failed burial insurance company. The best visual from the first Whitewater trial is already gone: the Trekkie alternate juror in Vulcan regalia. The wonder is that she was beamed up at all.

Meryl Streep would make a good Hillary--excellent at dramatizing pain in a marriage--but surely she would choke on this line from James B. Stewart's Blood Sport: "You can't be a woman if you don't have children. It's the central mission of women," which Hillary wouldn't utter at her most wonkish. In the end, it's not surprising that Hillary, rather than the Governor, may have been more involved in Whitewater. Political wives are often left to build a nest egg while their husbands are building empires--see Marianne Gingrich (who has taken heat for career leaping from beauty consultant to representative of the Israel Export Development Company) and Honey Alexander (a deal cutter so successful she could do infomercials on how to turn $5,000 into $142,000). While the men grapple with macro-finances of the M-1 variety, it falls to their wives to micro-manage tuitions, mortgages and IRAs. Even the aggressively un-Hillary Elizabeth Dole has made--and invested--much of the Dole money.

The wild success of the No. 3 TV show, Friends, is more understandable in light of last week's Census Bureau report, which shows that the average age at which people wed has climbed to a record level--26.7 for men and 24.5 for women. Never-married adults now make up a quarter of the over-18 population. That's 44.2 million people with enough free time to drink double their weight in coffee daily, get precision haircuts that fall rakishly into the eyes without totally obstructing vision, and watch a show on which people do all of the above. When they do finally wed maybe the Starbucks generation will cause less pain in their marriages than the yuppies did.

Hang a lamb chop in the window and they will come used to be the reigning social doctrine in Washington. But now that the new ethics rules require Senators and Representatives to pay their own way, they stayed away in droves from Placido Domingo's gala, which raised $2.6 million for the Washington Opera last Sunday. Colin Powell and Ross Perot bought the $1,250 tickets, but they aren't used to having someone else pick up the tab--yet.

Hillary dropped by James Carville's book party Thursday night at The Palm, and explained her reason for the surprise visit in a thick Arkansas accent: "I'm a pushover for sweet-talking Southern boys. I know where they're coming from, but I still fall for it." Maybe a mini-series after all. Streep does wonderful accents.

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