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IT’S BETTER SAFE THAN BOLD IN TODAY’S MODERN CLIMATE

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This and that:

- Just returned from a college reunion where I stayed in the same kind of dorm room I stayed in 20 years ago. Back then, living in those rooms created happiness. Last week, when I looked inside the room I was assigned, my first thought was that if a penitentiary were to provide cells that bleak, the ACLU would sue.- Rhode Island's governor just got in big trouble with women for describing a female candidate for state attorney general as "a small woman with a relatively good figure." No question, he blew it: That's no way to talk about a woman in a professional context. But it also points up why it's so confusing to be a male. Ever read women's magazines? Here's a sampling of cover stories from this week: Glamour: `Swimsuits That Flatter.' Vogue: `150 Summer Beauty Scoops.' Harper's Bazaar: `Spare and Sexy.' Think about that last one: Spare and sexy. In other words, women's quest in life is to be small with good figures. But what happens when a male publicly comments on same? He gets piled on for being a pig.

- Besides, I'll bet most women that had they been described that way in public would feel that the most galling part deep down would not be the `objectification' factor but the word "relatively."

- I'm not saying Bill Clinton's an angel, but if you believe Paula Corbin Jones only filed her sex harassment suit against him out of principle, then I've got some great swampland in Florida I'd like to sell you.

- Speaking of Clinton, he proved true to his word when, after introducing his running mate during the campaign, he vowed that his own tenure in the Oval Office would be a co-presidency. Too bad for poor Al Gore that it wasn't he who turned out to be the `co.'

- And a final Washington thought: Let me see now . . . Clinton picked Judge Breyer for the Supreme Court because the other candidates, though potentially more exciting, would be controversial in the Senate. And he picked Ruth Gader Ginsberg for the same reason. Then there was Bush's choice of Judge . . . uh, I'm forgetting his name now because he's so nondescript; you know - the gnomish guy from New Hampshire. Right - Souter. Maybe this all started with the defeat of Judge Bork's nomination under Reagan. But I wonder if we're paying a price as a nation because instead of picking Louis Brandeises, Felix Frankfurters and other visionary justices, our presidents have grown so afraid of nomination fights that they're siding with safe over bold.

- So I'm walking by my 6-year-old daughter's room the other day while she's playing dolls - doing her normal out-loud play-by-play as she goes - and suddenly I hear her say, "Then Barbie decides to live with her boyfriend." Look, I know this is the '90s. And I admit most people my age did such a thing in our own real lives. Still, call me an aging prude if you want, but whatever happened to, "So then, Barbie marries Ken"?

- Truth of life: The toy children always want to play with most is the one their brother or sister just got ahold of.

- And finally, never say that securing the oil supply was the only concrete benefit American institutions got out of the Gulf War. After all, a Saudi prince just bailed out of Euro Disney.