Romper Room

REMEMBER, WAY BACK in December 2000, after the U.S. Supreme Court finally stole, er, ruled that George W. Bush would become the next president of the United States? One of the primary themes of Bush supporters was that, at last, grown-ups would be running Washington, D.C. No more semen-stained dresses. No more fags in uniform and half-assed missile attacks. No more her. No more children running the world.


At least Clinton had reached adolescence. All current evidence suggests that the world is now being run by 7-year-olds.

To be sure, petulant little children are announcing themselves all around the world these days, from surly little bullies like Ahmad Chalabi (who, after spending years on various playgrounds stealing other kids' lunch money, has come home to be handed a shiny new bicycle called Iraq) to the angry little brat in North Korea trying to get his parents' attention ("I've got uranium now!" "Now I've got a missile!" "Now I'm arming it! Watch me! I really am!" "I said I REALLY AM! I mean it this time!!"). Kim Jong Il needs a time-out and a nap; Chalabi and his cohorts need reform school.

But the most alarming spectacle is in Washington itself, where Peter Pan went and recruited his whole grade-school class.

The result is calamity almost beyond words: an appetite for cool comic-book foreign policy and an emphasis on blowing stuff up combined with a Neverland insistence on how the world works and economics learned from watching older siblings play Monopoly.

Little kids, you'll recall, can be incredibly cruel. And so it is in D.C. these days, a dramatic step down from the Clinton crew (Janet Reno doubtless included) having at least discovered girls. This collection hasn't even matured enough to learn right from wrong or that actions have consequences or empathy. Instead, they stay home, watch TV, and play army all day. It's a nice day; they should at least go outside and play. Clinton needed to be grounded. Junior needs to have his toys taken away.

JUNIOR'S sole major "accomplishment" before daddy's friends got him elected governor was to use his allowance money to buy a baseball team. These are rich children. Too much attention is being paid to "rich," and not enough to "children."

In recent days, the little tyke has finally been confronted with truths that contradict his play world. Mostly he's been pouting and insisting that the tooth fairy really does exist, there is a Santa Claus, Saddam really did buy uranium from Niger. ("And all that other stuff I made up last week is true, too!")

Frankly, the pile of toys Junior's gotten bored with is starting to clutter the living-room floor, and Junior keeps tripping over his now-discarded Disney videos, too. (He's not much for reading.) It's not like he's ever been made to clean up his own messes. He still believes all the stories in those old videos, tooIraq's mystery weapons in trailers and the cool spy-movie ties to Al Qaeda and stuff. He still can't tell fact from fiction.

CONFRONTED with fact, he's reacting the way many small, spoiled kids doby blaming his friends, starting with the one he doesn't know very well, little Georgie Tenet. ("Hey, I only made him fall on a play sword! It didn't really hurt.") Every time Junior does this, he squeezes his eyes real tight and hopes it'll all just go away so he can go play army s'more.

The other little kids in Junior's clubhouse are acting about the same way except for little Rummy, who likes to torture the neighbor's cats when nobody's looking. Rummy's gonna be trouble when he gets older.

For years, the adults around Junior and his little pals have been making excuses for their behavior. All kids are above average. It was a misunderstanding. He didn't mean to break it. He's really not that dumb. He just learns differently. Isn't he cute? The parents are rich, so teachers are circumspect, even when the extra lessons they give don't stick or he makes Family Circle-style mispronouncements.

BUT THE BEHAVIOR coming out of Washington these days has become too destructive to ignore. These kids are very spoiled, and their excesses are scaring all the adults in the neighborhood, if not the world. Frankly, it would be a huge improvement if this batch got old enough to discover girls.

Alas, that's years away. Meantime, they're really, really wed to their fantasies, cruelty, and denials. Many, many people could die before Junior and his friends get old enough to learn right from wrong.

At this point, the best hope is that they move to another neighborhood.

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