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Jewish World Review July 16, 1999 /3 Av, 5759

Julia Gorin

Mort Zuckerman
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The reluctant partisan --
WHEN PRESIDENT CLINTON extended his recent cross-country poverty tour to watch the US and China compete in the Women's World Cup Soccer Finals in Pasadena, CA, there was one question on my mind: "Which team is he rooting for?"

His reaction to the American victory did little to answer my question. For two days following the game, TV and radio stations played and replayed the president's words of praise for the losing team. In fact, Clinton went on longer about what a good fight the Chinese team put up than he did about the American team's victorious plays.

"The many fans here wanted the American team to win," he said. (Well, isn't Pasadena in America?) Without attributing the same sentiment to himself, he added, "They were all so great, if I were not a partisan, you almost hate to see either side lose."

I had my answer. What the president was rooting for was a tie. The same kind of tie he?s been pursuing in the game of international security, promoting collective knowledge with his open-arms policy for technological secrets. If everyone is even-steven, he figures, no one'll get mad.

"If I were not a partisan..." The words came almost regretfully, as though his position as America's Number-One cheerleader were a weight bearing down on him, a limitation, a status imposed on him just because someone elected him president. As though it would be in poor taste to jump up and down animatedly over the American victory. Graciously accepting defeat would have been almost preferable.

This attitude is part of a larger picture.

If there is one overriding difference between the philosophies that characterize Bill Clinton's 1990s presidency and those that characterized Ronald Reagan's 1980s, it's that the latter felt America should stay Number One, while the former, uncomfortable with this status, has sought to diminish it.

At a time when our national leaders were saying that the American era is past, and telling us we'd have to adjust to our new, less than supreme world status, Reagan came in to say, "That's not good enough."

Bill Clinton, meanwhile, feels uncomfortable with supremacy, as do many other Americans I've met. Why, they ask, is it so important for us to be on top and to impose our values and morality on the rest of the world. Indeed, why even the compulsion to spread democracy?

Here I can't resist making a comparison between such thinking and the classical self-loathing Jew: he who is embarrassed by the notion that his are a chosen people, and spends his life bending over backwards proving just how not any-better-than-anyone-else he is. So do many Americans, Bill Clinton included, scoff at the idea that we're G-d's country, a nation divinely inspired to uplift humanity everywhere.

But we must stay away from such Jewish complexes. For America is already the Jew of the globe, with her prosperity envied, her achievements sneered at, and her actions scrutinized by vicious double standards.

The soccer players were not plagued by any complexes. And they weren't about to be defeated.

Unlike American nuclear and military labs, the girls did NOT share their plays with the opposing team so that the enemy could score a point here and there, be grateful and hopefully like them more. Through the 90 minutes of regulation time, the grueling double overtime and the final penalty kicks, the American team never backed down.

But instead of taking his cue from the girls, Clinton stuck with the same reasoning that's driven the open technology policy, the open human rights policy, and the open Lincoln Bedroom policy: Perhaps if he showed enough compunction for the losing Chinese team, it could buy us some future goodwill from that country.

Here I'm tempted to draw a comparison between the president and the classic Jew-outsider: he who is willing to do anything and give everything to anyone in order to be liked.

But just as history continues to prove to the Jew that such a strategy not only doesn't work, but in fact backfires, so should Clinton learn that his sympathies can earn him little assurance outside of the occasional campaign contribution.

"The American team was more lucky," came the resounding, unabashed verdict among members of the Chinese team and their coach.

Just like her athletes, China lets us know where she stands. She doesn't leave it to our imagination. Regardless of any nebulous circumstances arising from Clinton's murky dealings with China, there should be no mystery about our relationship.

Now that the Chinese are about to test new missiles, developed with stolen technology, all we can do is take consolation in that they may be able to steal our secrets and nuke us tomorrow, but at least we can kick their behinds in soccer!

Given the inherent danger of an open-arms policy (with which leaks have been merely consistent), I'm hoping our president might once more ponder the game he watched from the box seats overlooking the soccer field in Pasadena, and the way opposing team members shook hands at the end. So that he might glean a lesson from it: It?s possible to be ahead a few points and still get along.

If he doesn't learn this lesson soon, for his next poverty tour he won't need to leave the rubble heap where the White House once stood.

JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a stand-up comic and journalist residing in Manhattan. Send your comments to her by clicking here.


©1999, Julia Gorin