Unorthodox remedy for political dirt

Sunday, December 13, 1998

Aunt Patty is a worrywart.

This is probably not the technical term. I suppose some know-it-all would say she has obsessive-compulsive disorder. As though this is something that needs to be fixed. In fact, it is the Aunt Pattys of the world that keep it turning.

She does not live life on the edge. She simply lives life in advance. Without compromise.

It is not worth mentioning that she already has her Christmas shopping finished. After all, it has been December for nearly two weeks. Her table is set and shrink-wrapped. She has already drawn up her gift list for next year and will be hitting the after-Christmas sales hard.

Finicky complaint

She is careful with a buck. She does not borrow money from friends - or strangers. "If somebody gives you money," she has always warned her children, "they think they can tell you how to spend it." She likes living life on her own terms, which are more exacting than almost anybody else's terms.

An old-fashioned homemaker, she nonetheless is alert to the benefits of modern technology. She microwaves fearlessly and experiments tirelessly with the latest cleaning products.

Living life in advance is not limited to Christmas shopping and cleaning things that are not yet dirty. Her point is that you just can't allow dirt to get the upper hand. It's not good enough to just clean up afterwards. You have to think ahead. Even if it spoils your fun.

If she'd been anywhere near the White House, she would have been the one to say, "Watch out for that Lewinsky girl. She looks like trouble."

She'd have washed James Carville's mouth out with soap and explained to him that he did not elevate his boss or further his cause by calling Paula Jones "trailer trash."

My aunt would have taken Dick Morris' measure in an instant. "He looks shifty and talks out of both sides of his mouth."

She is not one to mince words. Or to twist them.

The noisy neighbor test

Hard money? Soft money? "Money is money," she would have told Vice President Gore. Controlling legal authority? "What will the neighbors think?" has been a good enough test for most of life's temptations.

By now, of course, we know what "the neighbors think." At Madame Tussaud's waxworks in Sydney, Australia, they had to sew up the fly of the trousers on the wax figure of the President of the United States.

"People have been taking liberties with his clothing," fumed Vicky Brown, general manager of the exhibition.

Before Ms. Brown ordered the zipper sewn shut, security guards had to check on the state of Mr. Clinton's trousers every couple of hours to "avoid embarrassment."

This, of course, is a case of art imitating life.

Aunt Patty doesn't think this is funny. She still thinks grown-ups ought be behave themselves at the office.

A lifelong Republican, she is troubled by the latest news to come out of Columbus. The Ohio Elections Commission voted Thursday to investigate charges that Gov. George Voinovich and some of his closest allies violated Ohio's campaign finance laws.

One of the lawyers called the matter "confusing."

Well, of course it is.

Nobody was thinking ahead. Nobody was wondering what the neighbors might think. And everybody was using somebody else's money.

Maybe Aunt Patty could be persuaded to enter public life. Her business card would read: Campaign Finance Chair and Chief Worrywart.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com, or call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular newspaper columns and radio commentaries, is available at (800) 852-9332.

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