Ale to the chief?

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“If I were just a private citizen, Joe Sixpack, I would have mixed feelings about not getting a chance to disprove these allegations in court.” – President Clinton, speaking this week about the dismissal of the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

Dear Mr. President,

I feel your pain.

You’ve spent five years in the White House, wining and dining fat cats at state dinners, toasting heads of state with half-empty champagne glasses, glad-handing gin-sipping lobbyists and fending off tattletale interns who can’t handle their liquor.

Washington, D.C., is a boozy, sour hangover of a town, where everyone wakes up either recalcitrant or vindictive.

And you’re stuck in the middle of it like a late-shift taproom operator who’s gotta flag another slobbering drunk.

Can’t slap the losers upside the head – you’re the bartender-in-chief.

If only, you seem to be wishing, if just for a day, you could take off the apron, belly up to the bar and down a nice, cold one with us so-called “private citizens.”

If only you could be Joe Sixpack.

Well, Mr. President, here’s the next best thing: an invitation for you to spend an hour or so with yours truly, America’s authentic Joe Sixpack. I’ll bring the brews, you handle the munchies.

Now, I know you consider yourself a man of the people, the kind of guy who can share quality time with minimum-wage countermen at the Dunkin’ Donuts. (I saw “Primary Colors,” and believed every word of it.) But lately, I suspect, you’ve been spending too much time listening to demographically correct focus groups and not enough time telling dirty jokes by the taproom jukebox.

A couple of brews with me will set you straight.

No, I don’t pretend to know the answers to your problems – that’s not the point of this invitation. But if you want to be Joe Sixpack, you’ve got to bend your elbow and spill a little beer.

Beer – blessed beer – is the refreshment of Everyman, the tabloid tippler’s intoxicant. It is as good for the soul as it is bad for the gut.

Halfway through the first pint, you’ll smell the fresh hops, you’ll hear the laughter from down the end of the bar, you’ll taste the roasted flavor of barley malt. And you’ll see the whole world – not just the view from inside the Beltway – from an entirely altered perspective.

Lean up against a bar, and you’ll stand on the same ground as every other man and woman who sought a moment’s refuge from chaos. Contemplate the beer coaster and raise a glass to the spirit of John Barleycorn. Maybe yours is filled with a certain brand of ale, but you’re the same as the brother who stood there last week and drained a cheap lager, same as the sister who’ll show up next week and buy a round for the house.

Then, wander into the back room and challenge me to a game of eight-ball. I’ve got solids. You’ll probably whup my butt, but next time I’m down in Little Rock, I’ll tell everyone I let ya. You get the next round while I rack ’em up.

Possibly I’m romanticizing things here, Mr. President. But you spend a pint or three with the real Joe Sixpack, and some of it’s going to rub off on you. (Make sure you don’t wear anything nice, it might not wash out.)

I don’t offer this invitation lightly, and I don’t imagine you would accept it as some dumb publicity stunt. The time I spend drinking beer is time I spend with friends and would-be friends. I expect no less from you.

But don’t for a minute imagine that I share all your principles. Yes, I work for a newspaper that is counting the days till Kenneth Starr climbs back into his hole. But my invitation is no partisan gambit. I do this for the good of the Republic.

Our whole country needs to pull up a stool and order a round of beers. Our president needs Joe Sixpack.

Sincerely,

The real Joe Sixpack

P.S. Thursday night is good for me.

-30-

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