Policy made plain.
March 2 1997 3:30 AM

Hope for the Best


"At this juncture, we all should hope for the best."

So concludes an especially muddled editorial Feb. 25 in the Wall Street Journal. The muddle was understandable, given that the topic was on-again, off-again, on-again Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The Journal's editorial page spent the 1980s vilifying the whole idea of independent counsels as a scandalous waste of money and an unconstitutional infringement upon executive power. But that was when Lawrence Walsh was investigating President Reagan. Now that it's a Democratic president under investigation, the Journal is naturally conflicted. Its former thundering constitutional anathemas are now repositioned as genteel "doubts" about the "extra-legal character" of "an institution still evolving."

Still, "At this juncture, we all should hope for the best" is remarkably unhelpful advice. Is there any editorial ever written to which this last sentence could not be attached? ("Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. At this juncture, we all should hope for the best.") Have we missed some other juncture, in the course of human events, at which the Journal would not have recommended that we all hope for the best? Will the Journal inform its loyal readers when we may abandon the strain of hoping for the best and return to the less exhausting task of fearing the worst? Do we really need the distinguished Wall Street Journal editorial page to tell us to hope for the best? One might as well turn to the Journal's news pages to be told to "buy low, sell high."

When contemplating a high-risk course of action, such as hoping for the best, it is always advisable to get a second opinion. At this juncture, we consulted Bill Gates. Would he recommend hoping for the best? At this particular juncture? "My dear fellow," he said, "Don't hope for the best. Demand the best." And he added, "Buy low, sell high."



A decade ago, the editor of this publication staged a contest in another publication to name the then-burgeoning Iran-Contra scandal. The premise was that scandal handles ending in "-gate" had become too tiresome, and that "Iran-Contra" was too clumsy. This turned out to be wrong on both counts, as that scandal came to be called "Irangate" by some and "Iran-Contra" by most. The winning name in that contest--"Iranamok"--was delightful, witty, and euphonious, but never took off.

Undaunted, let's try again. Anybody got a good name for the now-burgeoning Democratic-Asian-Connection-Lincoln-Bedroom-Fund-Raising Scandal? Nothing racist, please, and nothing (once again) ending in "-gate" (unless it's really good). Post your suggestions to "The Fray," our reader-discussion forum, or send e-mail to slate@msn.com. First prize will be a free year's subscription to Slate online (a $19.95 value). Oh, and maybe we'll throw in a Slate baseball cap.

Reels on Wheels

Slate readers who recall John Cassidy's article a few weeks back about a lavish "Hollywood Party" he attended at the home of Hollywood mogul Mike Medavoy might have enjoyed a New York Times feature about Medavoy Feb. 25. The party described in the Slate piece was intended to signify Medavoy's triumph over adversity: new wife, new job, and so on. In the Times piece, Medavoy touchingly describes the kindness and generosity he discovered during his adversity period: "Even the courier who used to bring films to me at home said he'd be happy to bring them to me for nothing." What a heartwarming story! Calling Frank Capra! Imagine: a fallen mogul almost reduced to seeing movies in a movie theater, saved from this humiliation by a big-hearted courier. If more couriers took a moment to show a bit of human compassion for the film producers in their midst, this old world would be a heckuva better place.

--Michael Kinsley