"The President," said White House Communications Director George Stephanopolous, "has to get his hair cut." Of course he does. But was it really necessary for this essential grooming to take place aboard Air Force One, while it sat on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport with its big engines purring? "As you know," said Stephanopolous, "(President Clinton) has a very busy schedule, and he just tries to work it in when he can." Well, yes. But that very busy schedule nonetheless allowed for a 56-minute delay in returning to Washington while a Beverly Hills barber--sorry, hair stylist--did whatever he does to earn his reputed $200 fee. Couldn't the haircut have waited until the other end of the line?

Meanwhile, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, two of the four runways at LAX were kept closed for security reasons. That delayed the landings of two commuter flights by as much as 25 minutes.

The Clinton haircut story is the stuff of a political image-polisher's worst nightmare. Here is a one-of-the-guys President being barbered by a one-name haircutter to Hollywood stars. Here is a President who preaches sacrifice self-indulgently buying what must be one of the priciest 'dos around. Here is the populist caught, in a revealing moment, taking full advantage of the trappings of the imperial presidency . . . including keeping a fair number of air commuters waiting aloft while he had his ears lowered.

A good hair day, maybe, but it didn't produce a pretty picture. Next time, Mr. President, try getting it cut in a less public place.

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