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Jewish World Review Jan. 19, 2001 / 24 Teves, 5761

Dave Shiflett

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Goodbye L.A., Hello Nashville -- THE SCRIBES who do the "What's In and What's Out" lists -- one of journalism's toughest and most closely watched assignments -- are no doubt busy this week. With a new administration advancing and the old one sliding out, Americans are desperate to know what sort of cultural, moral, and spiritual changes they can expect when the Bush Sequel begins. During Bush I, for example, the listing of Pork Rinds suggested that the patrician president might be a regular guy. When Slick came to town, the listing of Herpes signaled that a new era was upon us.

This time around, there's little doubt that the Out list is going to be the more interesting of the two. One expects to see such diverse items as Spot-Be-Gone, Kleenex, berets, unlit cigars, perjury, serial deceit, X-ray specs, shoe-tip mirrors, downloaded animal porn, linguistic manipulation, kneepads, gut-buster (unused), leering at staff, screeching at staff, chef firing, paranoia, phone sex, Liquid Plumber, oyster extract, file rifling, stonewalling, supernatural arrogance and condescension, evidence suppression, lip-biting, private investigators, out-of-court settlements, race-baiting, on-cue weeping, bongo playing, and others yet to be announced.

The In category will be harder to fill, primarily because nobody knows much about Dubya. We realize that he had more gold than the competition yet is also in possession of a decidedly brass tongue. We know he won't be needing a keg cooler (unless there's a dramatic turnaround), and few expect he'll be adding any bookshelf space in the presidential living quarters. We can be sure of one thing, however. The advent of Dubya means the return of country music, which left when his old man was deposed.

This is in contrast to the Clinton preference for light rock and pop music. Hillary, to be sure, utilized country music when necessary, most notably when she assured the nation during an early bimbo eruption that she was not a "stand by your man" type of gal. That turned out to be a staggering lie, of course, but she was under duress at the time -- the presidency was at stake and she most definitely didn't want to spend any more time in Arkansas watching Bill drool every time someone said the words "slumber party."

The Clintons' theme song was the pop anthem "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" by the latter-day Fleetwood Mac -- a pale shadow of the original band whose most notable member, Stevie Nicks, appears to have a soft spot for witches. With Bush, we are moving from Wicca back to Baptist territory, where it is assumed that there's nothing wrong with a witch that a little gasoline and matches can't cure. In geographical terms, we're leaving Los Angeles for Nashville.

While the GOP is publicly supported by a few Hollywood types, most notably Bo Derek, Chuck Heston, and the Terminator, its deepest cultural support hails from Al Gore's home state. Several country music sensations will be featured at this week's inaugural, including Clint Black, Brooks and Dunn, Sammy Kershaw, Larry Gatlin, Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Lee Greenwood, Asleep at the Wheel, and Lorrie Morgan (who could make Bill's drool glands gush like a couple of sliced arteries). Pop music will enjoy only token representation in the form of Ricky Martin and a few lesser lights.

In the new spirit of bipartisanship, it will no doubt be remarked by Bush's opponents that country music is created by, for, and about stupid people. There is no denying that Nashville produces its share of dreck, though it is dreck of a different type from what is produced by Hollywood, New York, and Los Angeles (at their worst). Nashville dreck is terrible not because of an infatuation with what Rabelais might call the "bunghole view of life," but simply because it certifies the old joke about the necessary elements of a country song: three chords, two teeth, and a one very bad set of lyrics. This lethal combination produces many songs of grinding banality.

It is also true, however, that country music is, at its best, is concerned with what might be called adult themes: heartbreak, death, loneliness, fear, true love, bankruptcy, hope, despair, along with some non-cynical tributes to momma, poppa, and Jehovah. This is in great contrast to nihilistic gonadian rhapsodies that dominate the pop songlist.

There will be other changes as well. Dubya probably won't be reading much wonk literature, as Bill was rumored to enjoy, so the Heritage Foundation et al. should probably not bother lugging their policy blueprints over to the White House. Similarly, Yasser Arafat might find himself cooling his heels while the president dallies, though not in order to facilitate a DNA transfer, but because Dubya's lingering in the can, reading the box scores.

All told, not a bad cultural shift.

JWR contributor Dave Shiflett writes from Midlothian, Va. Comment by clicking here.


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11/23/00: Democracy may be under siege, but now comes the fun
11/21/00: The dolt vote
11/15/00: Now what will we do for fun?

© 2000, Dave Shiflett