Jay Severin is one of these guys on cable TV and AM radio decrying our nation’s lack of moral values. Before he was an opinion maker, he worked mainly as a political consultant for Republicans in 30 states. Before that, he protested alongside Abbie Hoffman.
He has silvery gray hair, close-cropped. At Life nightclub on Bleecker Street, he was drinking along with the rest of the sleeksters. The music was thumping away.
Mr. Severin looked like he was having a good time. He was sitting at a table with six women, all of them young and beautiful. But, as usual, he was steamed. This time it was President Bill Clinton’s apparent approval of the sale of satellite technology to China.
“I’m enjoying the natural decadence which accompanies the breakdown of any moral fiber in the culture,” he said. “We have a President who has cheaply not just sold–he’s not just a whore, he’s a cheap whore–he has sold American security for about $100,000. This makes him a $5 hooker in New York parlance.”
“Like a crack whore?” I asked helpfully.
” Exactly like a crack whore. We don’t know that he did it, but at the least we know that it happened on his watch. What’s his defense? ‘I didn’t know.’ This is the Gomer Pyle defense.”
“Well, what we’re seeing here and elsewhere, globally, is not unlike what we’re seeing in the Soviet Union–an explosion of personal decadence because there is no more moral model at the top of government or culture. So everyone here either vaguely knows or believes there’s a President of the United States who would help target the missiles of an enemy against our country, for what? So we can have another round of drinks! It’s perfectly 90’s!”
“What’s been his greatest crime?”
“That’s easy, it isn’t sex, it’s not Monica, it’s not the President boinking the intern–the greatest crime of Clinton is he has become the enemy of his sworn oath, to preserve, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The only way for him to in good conscience execute the duty of his office is to commit suicide. Clinton embodies all the Faustian qualities of the baby-boom generation.”
The young woman next to him–Nora, in a slinky black spaghetti-strap dress–piped in. “Can we speak in Arabic?” she said. Then she said something in that language before giving the translation: “It means I have no money.”
“I don’t want to be dogmatic or boring,” continued Mr. Severin, “but when we have a President promising as the basis of his legacy that no one American boy or girl faces the threat of a Russian missile pointed at them when they go to bed at night, but instead now faces a Chinese nuclear missile–singularly by virtue of our having sold to China to target us–something is profoundly and bizarrely wrong. In the context of the Chinese syndrome, Vince Foster and Ken Starr become only a headache.”
“Do you feel like you’re part of the decadence?”
“I certainly hope so. One can’t be an observer of decadence–one needs to be a full-fledged and enthusiastic participant.”
“You don’t see a connection between the lack of moral fiber here and Clinton, do you?”
“I do. This bar tonight looks like any bar in the Soviet Union recently. There is a certified absence, a liberation from any moral code, and so everyone’s enjoying themselves. This is derivative of the Al Franken generation. How does it affect me , with a capital M ? So this looks tonight like the taverns in the Soviet Union. We’re happy, we’re drunk, because we don’t care. There is no higher moral authority to which we have to pay homage–it’s total moral anarchy.”
“Are you having a good time?”
“I’m a libertine more than I am a libertarian. I’m having, therefore, a splendid time.”
“What would make tonight unforgettable?”
“By the Israeli Prime Minister to be done away with,” said the young woman.
“What are you drinking tonight?”
Mr. Severin looked at the woman. “I’m drinking in the intoxicating fumes of extraordinary pulchritude,” he said.
“Is she your date?”
“No. Of course, that question can never ultimately be answered till much later than now.”
“You’re not married or anything?”
“Actually, I am,” he said. “There is right and wrong, and this evening is not a laboratory of lasciviousness. It is , in a way, God willing, but the fact is, most people under 50 are libertarians whether or not they self-identify as such, and their attitude is live and let live, and the only time this could be really serious for Bill Clinton was when it changed from an adultery issue to a criminal issue …”
The woman piped in again: “You are speaking to the Prime Minister of Drinking,” she said.
“This is a demonstration of commitment to the most essential principle of the Founding Fathers, which is the pursuit of happiness,” Mr. Severin said. “I’m not engaged in politics because I like politics–I loathe it. I’m engaged in politics because I need to join the cadres of patriots who fight against authoritarian control. When I was running around with Abbie Hoffman when I was a kid, the authoritarians were the right. Now it’s the left. I don’t want anyone to tell me how to live or what to do, and this is a celebration of our being able to do whatever we want, and that’s exactly in keeping with the quintessential nature of what the Founding Fathers stood for.”
Then he said, “Rudy Giuliani might not approve, but here we are.”
So these two English sailors were in a bar, the Elbow Room on Bleecker Street, with their buddies. Their names were Brian Smith and Steve Grayson, and they worked as cooks on the H.M.S. Richmond . They were celebrating because they had just won a cooking contest held aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum.
“The main course was like four different types of meats,” said Mr. Smith. “We had a roast beef, which was called a Tudor roast beef, in fresh peppercorns. We had Hanoverian pickled pork. Like pickled pork loin, which is just the eye of the pork loin–we stuffed it with spicy sausage. It’s all based on an English heritage theme, like the royal family heritage. The Hanoverians is what the royal family is. There was also Plantagenet terrine.”
“We tried to make it out of the old sort of stuff, like what they had around back then,” said Mr. Grayson. “Like wild fowls, old chickens, smoked chickens, grilled chicken, pork, beans and nuts all mixed together, and it was bound in horse meat.”
Mmmmm. Who says the English can’t cook? Anyway, it must get pretty lonely out on the high seas. The chefs’ mates were testing their moves on the women in the bar, without much luck.
“Everybody talks to you when you’re English,” Mr. Grayson said.
“But New York girls are very … a bit harder going than English girls,” said Mr. Smith.
But the two sailors seemed to miss the women on the ship more than the women back home.
“We’ve got four women on the ship,” said Mr. Smith flatly. “They’re all officers and they’re all divs.”
“Divine,” he said. “They’re all divine, very good-looking. They’re all officers, right. So they’re all in positions of authority.”
“Any woman that’s more powerful than you,” said Mr. Grayson, “she’s attractive.”