The Big Chill generation came bouncing into town with all of the hoopla you could imagine—bright, in-your-face articulate, self-righteous, and pompous enough to remind us that they were people more likely to be found in bus stations than in airports and that this, in itself, somehow demonstrated their moral superiority. During their second week in power, a waving White House aide yelled to reporters that they were on their way to “a Big Chill weekend” at Camp David. With an entourage of cabinet officials in tow they were out to show that they’d make governin’ fun. The centerpiece of the movie The Big Chill is, of course, the music, the wonderful music that is perhaps the only thing about the 60’s that should remain pure and wholly intact. Songs, unlike people, do not need to be tempered by time or rewritten by reality checks. The Big Chill, after all, is about disillusionment, a sadder-but-wiser coming-of-age party, best expressed by Mary Kay Place’s character, a public defender whose ideals have been tarnished by the real criminals she has had to defend. “I didn’t know they’d be so guilty,” she says.

Many of us who are just a few years older than Bill Clinton and who have already had copious amounts of cold water thrown upon our 60’s ideals are more than a little nervous that his coming-of-age has to occur in the White House. He still has that shoot-from-the-hip, laugh-at-the-elders quality that we once had until we learned about complexities, unintended consequences, and the limits of idealism. How other than flip immaturity, appealing in a rock star but scary in a President, can we view his statements that George Bush was cruel and callous to return a boatload of Haitians and that he, unlike Mr. Bush, was not obsessed with Saddam Hussein. How wonderfully simple. How perfectly 60’s.

Those of us who have outgrown the 60’s mind-set have usually been brought to cold reality by defendants who were guiltier than we thought, by employees who preferred government-sponsored vacations via unemployment compensation to work, by the devastation of young people on drugs, by a standardless educational system, and, in my own case, by tenants who were less like Les Miserables and more like creatures from Pacific Heights. Like George McGovern after owning a bed-and-breakfast inn, I have learned that small businesses can be smashed by well-intentioned but misguided government edicts. Proud that my family and I have created a business that now employs 40 people, I was angered by the continued pounding of small business owners by Democrats in general and by candidate Bill Clinton in particular when he denounced people like me for having “dumped their employees’ health care on the rest of us.” I felt excluded by the party of inclusion when they made business owners the Willie Hortons of 1992. The only small business owner mentioned by Jesse Jackson, who perhaps more than anyone could help his constituency by extolling the contributions and benefits of small business, was the owner of a chicken factory who burnt his employees to death by locking the back door.

George McGovern, for whom Clinton and I were both volunteers in 1972, may be able to tell President Clinton how quintessentially half-baked he sounds to the business community when he and Robert Reich make sanctimonious pronouncements that the minimum wage should be high enough to support a family of four. Anyone who has run a pizza shop for six months knows more about business than these Rhodes Scholars.

Perhaps President Clinton now realizes that the Haitian situation is a little murkier, a bit more morally ambiguous and fraught with consequences, than he had thought. When Haitians began tearing down their homes to build boats, things looked a little more complicated than just singing about huddled masses. Questions about the character of exiled President Aristide have arisen, accusations of his having “necklaced” people and having tried to kill Haiti’s papal nuncio. Despite all of this, or perhaps oblivious to all of this, Mr. Clinton had promised that the United States government would restore President Aristide to power.

With a bit of dread, I suspect that there is one other prevailing myth that the 60’s leftovers will need to unlearn. It is that the United States is not the sole evil-doer in the world. During the campaign, we heard a daily litany about what all the other civilized nations are doing. Mr. Clinton said our economy was “so bad that we had drug [sic] the whole world down with us.” Even Saddam Hussein might be a warm fuzzy, smiling on the evening news, if it weren’t for the United States and George Bush and our disgusting appetite for oil. Some of us who are no longer Blame-America-Firsters have discovered that there are bad guys in the world. We have even learned at least one thing from our old 60’s nemesis, Richard Nixon. Nixon believed in the Madman Theory of scaring enemies into compliance with our version of world order.

Sadly, wisely, and morally compromised. President Clinton will probably learn, like those before him, that yesterday really is gone. That’s what the Big chill is all about.