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Jellybeans -- the new ovals in the Oval Office

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The jellybean is about to replace the peanut as the national nibble -- and just in time, the way the peanut crop is going. The gourmet line of jellybeans Ronald Reagan prefers -- a California brand known as "Jelly Belly" -- is said to include an exotic bean flavored with peanut butter. This makes a nice transitional touch. Only peanut brittle -- beloved by Lyndon Johnson -- could build a better bridge between administrations.

The nutty vs. the sugary, the salt vs. the sweet -- what a neat system for dividing liberals and conservatives! But a bit of research seems to indicate that the sweet tooth has been bipartisan as far as the White House is concerned. The great and the not-so-great presidents have expressed a common humanity in their desire for the gooey munch.

George Washington nibbled on chess cakes (lots of egg yolks, lots of butter, lost of sugar). Warren Harding snacked on almond cookies.

And now the presidential jaws are about to close upon jellybeans.

Political leadership, the pundits insist, has become a matter of gesture, of symbolism. What is the jellybean trying to tell us? A friend who voted for Reagan has defined what he calls the Jellybean Style.

Jellybeans, he points out, come in all colors, all flavors. This suggests to him a taste for the spectrum -- a nibbler of flexibility, open to variety and a degree of experimentation.

Here, our friend argues, is no peppermint drop fanatic, numbing his palate on a single dogmatic flavor until he can recognize no other.

Gently gumming a jellybean is about as far from an act of aggression as a candy-eater can get, our friend further maintains -- unlike, for instance, grinding a sour ball between militant teeth, with every muscle in the jaw distended.

Talk about your ruthless pincer movements!

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