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Boren: 'Tennis-Racket Restringing Is Negotiable'

August 01, 1993|Bruce McCall | Bruce McCall is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker

NEW YORK — In a dramatic speech on the U.S. Senate floor (all chairs were occupied, according to well-placed sources), Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.), until today a bitter opponent, offered a drastically reduced set of conditions for his "yes" vote on President Bill Clinton's forthcoming deficit-reduction plan, now in conference committee.

Gone are the senator's formerly "non-negotiable" quid pro quo demands for season Redskin tickets and free re-stringing of his tennis rackets. Presidentail support for Boren's bill to make uttering the word "Okie" (except when singing "Okie From Muskogee") a federal offense, punishable by being sentenced to attend 200 performances of the Broadway show, "The Will Rogers Follies," will not be sought, he said.

In a rash of further concessions, the Yale-educated former Oklahoma governor dropped his insistence that the government take down the fence it had built around the home of former FBI Director William S. Sessions and re-erect it around Boren's suburban Washington residence; that all official road signage in Clinton's home state of Arkansas carry the inscription, "Adjacent to Oklahoma, home state of Sen. David L. Boren;" that he and Mrs. Boren get admitted free to all advance White House screenings of major motion pictures and that Mrs. Boren gets to sit next to Hillary Rodham Clinton at next year's State of the Union Address.

But Boren did refuse to back down on certain other demands: that "Oklahoma!" be declared the national anthem; that storied native Oklahoma politician William "Alfalfa Bill" Murrary replace Ulysses S. Grant on the $1,000 bill; that all U.S. schoolbooks include a paragraph explaining what "The Sooner State" actually means, and that the films "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men" be remade, replacing all Oklahoma Dust Bowl references with "Louisiana Dust Bowl" in retaliation against Rep. Billy Tauzin's strong opposition to a gasoline tax.

Free shoeshines by the President's bootblack, a ride in Air Force One and teaching Chelsea to call him "Uncle Dave" were points too basic, Boren said, to be put on the table.

"My aim is to make peace and help this all-important program move forward," Boren declared. "Certain senators and congressmen not on the conference committee have tried to blackmail the President by threatening a "no" vote unless more costly pork is gouged out of the taxpayer's hide and stuffed into their own pockets. But my proposals won't cost the taxpayers of this country a red cent, so it shows there's more than one way to skin a cat. Speaking of cats--why shouldn't Socks spend every other weekend with the Borens?"

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