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The Haircut: Political fortunes fall at a brisk clip


We'll start with the haircut, because it's the haircut that historians will remember.

Bill Clinton has what they call in the trade "bad hair." Others have had this problem and still gone on to lead productive lives. Einstein. Beethoven. Kramer.

But bad hair may have done in Clinton.

Once upon a time, his was a truly majestic story, this man from Hope who grew up in a dysfunctional family where his mother used to cut his hair using a bowl, which would have been fine except that most of his hair collected in the top of the bowl instead of outside it, meaning little Bill always ended up looking something like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals.

And yet he overcame this adversity to become president of the greatest darn country in the world.

Then came THE HAIRCUT. And now, he's fighting for his political life.

Most people don't know this, but the haircut is Hillary's fault. A Secret Service agent tipped me to this conversation:

Hillary: Bill, you're the president of the United States, for God's sakes. You can't go around looking like that.

Bill: Like what?

Hillary: Like with that thing on top of your head. Your hair looks like a cheap shag rug. Do you use Head and Shoulders or Al's Carpet and Rug Care? Maybe you can get away with that in Arkansas, where people think it's fun to go around wearing pig heads, but now you're in charge of the whole country.

Bill: Honey . . .

Hillary: Don't 'honey' me. Just get your hair cut before you get back from L.A. I'll call my guy Christophe. If anybody can rescue your hair, it's him.

You know what happened. Christophe -- Beverly Hills has a law that a stylist must be dispatched to the Hair Cuttery if he has more than one name -- comes aboard Air Force One at the L.A. airport, gives Clinton the $200 cut and ties up two runways for an hour.

While these little commuter planes are circling, running out of fuel and then crashing into houses, Clinton is heard to say: "A little more off the side, please."

This has upset people. It has upset people because Clinton, who ran as a populist, now gets haircuts costing more than you'd pay for an appendectomy.

Clinton tried to make a joke about the haircut yesterday. "I'm glad nobody found out about the manicure," he said.

Oh, the manicure. That must have been last week when Clinton asked the New Hampshire TV anchorwoman to apply his makeup before he would do an interview. You heard about that, right? There was no makeup person immediately available, so Clinton asked the nearest woman. He apologized for that.

He's spending much of his time these days either apologizing or explaining. He explains that he hasn't gone Hollywood even though he's had Barbra Streisand over to the White House for a sleep-over. I don't have a problem with that, so long as she didn't sing "Stoney End" or any Neil Diamond collaboration.

Here's a Hollywood question for you: Has anyone has ever seen Clinton and Kevin Kline together?

Then there's Travelgate. (Note to Bob Dole: Bob, never, ever, ever again compare this to Watergate.) Bad enough that Clinton fires the travel staff and tries to give the job to his cousin. Bad enough that he calls in the FBI to write a cover story for him.

What's worse is how he gave Mack the knife. Mack is, of course, Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, who is Clinton's chief of staff and his friend since the first grade. When the heat turned on Clinton, Travelgate-wise, he said basically this: "It's my responsibility, but it's Mack's fault. I didn't know anything about it."

You think the Friend O' Bill list is starting to shrink?

It wasn't supposed to be like this. This administration is supposed to be about change (and not "Christophe, you got change for a thousand?"). The issues are supposed to be the economy, stupid. He can't get that package through Congress. He can't get his way on gays in the military. You think this health care thing is going to work?

What's got me worried is that the Rhodes scholar keeps making these very dumb mistakes. They say his advisers should be helping him. What are they supposed to say: "Next time you're on a live runway, Mr. President, skip the shampoo"?

We've gotten to the point that Johnny Carson comes out of retirement so he can do Clinton jokes. What Carson wants to know is how Clinton got from Billy Bob Barber to Christophe. Right now, that seems like a very good question.

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