I've been wondering whether the people who make fun of George W. Bush for carrying his down pillow on the campaign trail can be accused of engaging in class warfare. Are they really saying that Bush is what my mother would have called "spoiled rotten"? I should make it clear from the start that I am not among those who have engaged in such ridicule. My wife has a strong preference for down pillows, and as it happens, she would make an excellent President. After many years of marriage, I am also in a position to tell you she would win the presidential debates in a walk. If my wife had been present at that first debate, it would not have consisted solely of briefing-book regurgitation; you would have heard some zingers.
Could it be that she is spoiled herself? Definitely not. It's true that I sometimes refer to her as the principessa when we're traveling in Italy, but as I've explained before, I do that mainly because I find that it improves the service at the hotel. The people at the front desk tend to snap to when I say something like, "The bathtub drain in our room is a bit slow for the principessa's taste," or, even more often, "The principessa has asked me to inquire about whether this hotel might have a down pillow." I do not happen to have a gift for learning foreign languages--I've expressed concern over the years that the headline on my obituary will read MONOLINGUAL REPORTER SUCCUMBS--but in countries where I don't know how to say so much as "I'll have the salami," I tend to know the word for pillow and the word for down.
Although I've recused myself on the issue of George W. Bush's pillow, I wouldn't deny that I engage in class warfare now and then, having found it to be a less strenuous form of battle for an older fellow than, say, paint ball. Some years ago, it dawned on me that what's called class warfare in this country goes in only one direction--up. You are engaging in class warfare if you point out what sort of people would benefit from a repeal of the estate tax or if you raise the possibility that Dick Cheney's retirement package seems a tad overgenerous for a CEO who, by some reckonings, may have weakened the company. If you criticize welfare mothers for irresponsibility and laziness and immorality, on the other hand, you are not waging class warfare; you are simply trying to uphold the American virtues of thrift and ambition.
It's true that welfare mothers are not normally sticklers for down pillows, although I suppose all that could change under an Administration guided by compassionate conservatism. Even so, I will never use Bush's pillow preference against him. In fact, I might point out that, if my experience is any guide, it could be an asset if he's President. I see him sitting next to the Prime Minister on a state visit to Greece. The Prime Minister, being a reader of the American press, is braced to be asked how the Grecians are doing or whether Athens has any major league pro teams. Instead, George W. Bush turns to him and says, in passable Greek, "Does this hotel have any down pillows?" The Prime Minister is charmed.