Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Money Changes Everything

It's hard to imagine now, but when Bill and Hillary Clinton were originally installed in Washington on the heels of the first administration in the disastrous Bush dynasty, they crackled with a home-spun authenticity that hadn't been seen since the days of President Carter. They were the original egalitarians, fresh from Arkansas, a state most of us couldn't have picked out on a map, and to prove it their first task was a failed attempt to revamp the health care system. That's probably when they began to realize that the American political system was bigger than both of them.

That was a long time -- and a lot of money -- ago. Despite their extensive and costly legal battles over the years, the Clintons are what most former presidential families find themselves to be if by some thin chance they didn't start out that way: millionaires. So it's been interesting to see how this formerly plebian couple, who were married in 1975 at a friend's home in the unassuming college town of Fayetteville, have handled their daughter Chelsea's wedding in this new-found, to-the-manor-born style. To her own ceremony Hillary claims to have worn a "lace-and-muslin Victorian dress I had found shopping with my mother the night before," while in photos of the event Bill is wearing a spotted tie most definitely not of a designer label. He even spent his wedding night bailing his young brother-in-law out of jail on a DUI charge.

But, as they say, money changes everything. The idealistic, frizzy-haired, post-hippie couple who embarked on the rough road of marriage together 35 years ago sprung for a wedding last weekend that cost a reported $3 million. There was the $11,000 gluten-free wedding cake, Vera Wang gowns for all eleven bridesmaids (and two specially-designed VW gowns for the bride), and this time Hillary didn't settle for a last-minute rumble-sale grab -- she wore an Oscar de la Renta ensemble befitting her new Brahmin status. Bill apparently took his father-of-the-bride role so seriously he went on a crash diet and successfully lost 20 pounds.

So yes, fame and fortune are corrupting, and it's tough to resist the siren call that lures you to the shoals of comfort and entitlement. I'm not sure why, but somehow I still expected the Clintons to set a slightly less ostentatious example to the world, especially at a time of struggle and need for so many. Perhaps I'm still naive; even Sarah Palin, that aw-shucks people's-choice populist from Alaska, has managed to amass a $15 million fortune since she was nominated for the vice presidency just two years ago. Although that doesn't surprise me at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment