How many would be there for Clinton?

August 20, 1998

Bob MaginnisIn the spring of 1960, the Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 reconnaissance plane flying over its territory and captured its pilot, Francis Gary Powers. The incident and the admission by President Dwight D. Eisenhower that such flights had been going on for four years gave Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev an excuse to break up the summit meeting going on in Paris at the time.

As Eisenhower prepared to return home, word spread through the Washington, D.C. area that a group of citizens were going out to Andrews Air Force Base to show "Ike" that whatever troubles he had with Mr. K, Americans were still behind him.

My parents had always been politically active, in the sense that they read as much as they could about the issues of the day and debated them vigorously at the dinner table. They were not normally inclined to drag us to rallies, but on that day in May, they put us in the car and headed for Andrews.


Two things I remember about the trip. Alongside the road, a farmer had put a large tarp over one side of his barn. On it he had written, in letters two feet high, "Mr. President, We Are United."

The other was that as we waited along the access road, a big limousine rode slowly by and the president stuck his sunburned head out the window and waved to the silent crowd. I began to clap, starting a wave of applause that followed the big car all the way down to the highway.

I remembered that long-ago day on Tuesday, after President Clinton's speech to the nation. Americans may approve of the job this president is doing, but how many are fond enough of him to take the trouble to welcome him home?

What we have with the current president is not a relationship based on respect, but a business deal in which we agree to wink at his bad behavior as long as the economy keeps humming along. The deal seems to suit most of us, but as one of my colleagues said the morning after Clinton's speech, a child ought to at least get through grade school before he finds out that the leader of his country is a liar.

A scene I'd like to see: A long shot of the White House, with presidential dog "Buddy" tied to one of the pillars. From the balcony above, someone is rapidly throwing down men's suits, ties and expensive shoes. A limousine pulls up, the power window rolls down and the woman on the balcony and the man in the back seat stare at each other. As Mary Chapin Carpenter said in one of her songs, "It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask."

Randy Oldham ran for the Washington County Board of Education in 1994 and 1996, so he knows what it's like to be a candidate and what the frustrations were.

One thing that aggravated Oldham was how local candidate forums were run. Candidates were asked questions they hadn't received in advance, then expected to answer them intelligently in two minutes. And if you were in the audience and you had a good question, there was no guarantee it would ever be asked.

Oldham hopes to correct those flaws, by creating his own forum on the Internet. Citizens will submit questions to the candidates, who'll then have a day or so to provide their answers, which will be posted on the web site.

Oldham says the effort will be totally non-partisan and says he's not backing or advising any candidate. The only questions the candidates won't see are those which are personal, negative or derogatory in nature, Oldham said.

All answers by the candidates will be published, although some may have to be edited for length, he said.

And for candidates who'd like to tell visitors to the forum more about themselves, Oldham said he'll build them a web page for $90, which he said would cover the six to nine hours it would take him to do it.

"I don't think I'll break even on it," he said, adding that his intent is not to make money, but to provide Internet access for those candidates who might not get into cyberspace in any other way.

After the election, he envisions it as a continuing site where citizens can ask questions and elected officials can disseminate information.

If you'd like to visit the site, the address is

On Sept. 8, a group of 100 school officials, parents and business leaders will release the draft of a strategic plan to address problems found in the 1997 curriculum audit of Washington County schools. Nobody expects the school board to accept this report without some changes, but if the board attempts to put the report on the shelf or gut it, look for some fireworks not normally seen in this area, where a great deal of effort is normally spent to maintain the illusion that nobody disagrees about anything substantial.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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