Point and Clique

Politics and policy.
May 7 1999 3:30 AM

Point and Clique

How the Poms, the Jocks, and the GOP Band rule Washington High School.

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The other challenger is the Townies, who loathe Clinton. The Townies have been going to school in Washington forever, and they hate the popular newcomer who has displaced them in prestige. "Bill Clinton is just so tacky. Have you seen the way he hits on girls? Did you hear about him and that girl Monica? It's gross," says Sarah Quinn, as she loiters in the parking lot of the Four Seasons with her longtime boyfriend Ben.

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The Jocks, the Band, the Townies, and the President don't agree on much, but they all love the Gulchers. The Gulchers--Bob Livingston, Haley Barbour, Tommy Boggs--are Washington High's most successful graduates. They work on K Street, but drop by the old school every day to cruise the parking lot, pick up girls, tell shaggy-dog stories, and deal tobacco, liquor, and guns to current students. They drive fabulous cars and pick up every check. "The Jocks say they rule Washington. But we own Washington," says Gulcher Vernon Jordan, flashing a smile and a wad of Ben Franklins.

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B ut for those who aren't so popular, Washington High is a forbidding place. The popular kids, for example, mock the Wannabes, the mobs of freshmen and sophomores who aspire desperately to become Jocks. The Wannabes will do anything for the Jocks, and the Jocks exploit them mercilessly, forcing them to write briefing papers, answer mail, field phone calls, fetch dry cleaning, and play chauffeur. In exchange for this drudgery, the Jocks occasionally deign to nod in their general direction. If a Wannabe gets paid a small stipend for this work, she belongs to the Staffers. If she's not paid, she's an Intern. Staffers are cooler than Interns.

The Nerds, who hole up in the economics and computer classrooms, have an even more hopeless position. They're entirely ignored by the popular Washingtonians--except when Jocks or White Housers need someone to do their homework for them. Then, the Nerds do what they're told. Jacob Lew, who runs the Management and Budget Club, sighs about this injustice. "I mean, it's totally unfair. I spend months figuring out exactly how much money they have and what they can spend. I'm the one who does all the work, and what do I get in return? They laugh at my charts, and they don't even know my name." ("Jacob Lew? Who's Jacob Lew?" asks Clinton.)

Some Washingtonians try to disappear from the social hierarchy. The Badgers hide in their cafeterias. The Drama Club meets in Dupont Circle, far from Washington's social center. Led by arty kids such as Chris Hitchens, "Mo" Dowd, and Leon Wieseltier--who also edits the Washington literary magazine--the Dramatists profess disgust with everyone on the Hill and in the Gulch. "They're so stupid and hypocritical and fake," snorts Dowd. "We keep our distance from their pointless little world." 

The debate team, likewise, avoids social intercourse. "We choose not to consort with others," declares team captain Bill Rehnquist, known as the Chief. "Frankly, it would just waste our time and embarrass them."

No matter where you go on this beautiful but troubled campus, Timmy Russert's question echoes: Is Washington another Columbine? Nowhere does it resonate more than on the edge of campus, in a dark corner of a building known as the "Courthouse." The Courthouse is the home to Washington's proudest outcasts: The Wingers. "They think we're freaky. They harass us because they think we're freaky," mutters Laurence "Larry" Klayman, the most garrulous of the Wingers. "They harass us. Well, we'll show them what harassment really is. Does Bobby Rubin know what a deposition is? 'Cause I'm gonna show him ..."

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