VIP sabbaticals should be kinder, gentler variety

Elise T. Chisolm

September 13, 1990|By Elise T. Chisolm

For crying out loud can't presidents and vice presidents and their wives stay out of risky boats? I, for one, don't like my heads of state taking recreational boat rides in times of crisis.

Number one, there is the fact that they should be conserving energy.

Secondly, it doesn't look too good for people in command to be playing around instead of manning headquarters. I think Bush should be in the White House or even in the rose garden thinking about important things and making important decisions when we're in a crisis.

I am referring to the recent incident in which Bush's speedboat "Fidelity" triggered a Coast Guard rescue after the pleasure boat broke down off the coast of Kennebunkport. Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his wife, Mila, and Barbara Bush were among the rescued. White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said there was never any danger to the president or the prime minister.

Now this was at the height of the Iraqi crisis. I assume Mr. and Mrs. Bush are good swimmers, but if the boat capsized, where does that leave the hotline that is supposedly with the president at all times?

Then what do we hear? Marilyn Quayle was tossed into the Colorado River on a recent weekend.

Vice President Dan Quayle, Mrs. Quayle and several Secret Service agents were rafting down Lava Falls rapids in the Grand Canyon when they the hit a 37-foot drop, Mrs. Quayle was struck in the chest by a blast of water and knocked out of the raft. She was rescued by a park superintendent. She wasn't hurt.

Apparently white-water rafting is a Quayle pastime.

What gives me the shivers is to think that Bush could have been harmed, or worse, and that Dan Quayle would be his successor. Then suppose Quayle caught double pneumonia after falling into the icy river. That would leave the helm to Secretary of State James Baker, who was in Wyoming vacationing.

And I'm beginning to feel sorry for the Secret Service agents who have to cover these water-loving people. Maybe the agents don't like to swim, or maybe they don't know how to swim.

Oh well, what can we do about this Operation Water Sports, and the games presidents play?

In the old days, presidents didn't go for dangerous hobbies. Harry Truman walked a lot. Carter played peanut farmer. Of course, former President Gerald Ford beaned a couple of people a couple of times with his golf ball as did former Vice President Spiro Agnew. Also, have you noticed that you see television shots of Bush swinging his golf club but you never see where the ball lands. Of course, Ford fell a few times, as I recall, when he wasn't doing a sport. Danger lurks everywhere for presidents. I just wish they'd stick to tennis and golf. In general, I'd like to see these heads of states take up "kinder and gentler" sports.

Now I have some serious thoughts about "no-no sports:" no para-sailing, no water skiing, and no mountain climbing for the Bushes or the Quayles or any member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, please.

Here are some suggestions for hobbies and sports for heads of states:

* Canoeing in the White House pool.

* Gardening in a complete beekeepers outfit.

* Duck pin bowling.

* Video games in the oval office.

* Quilting.

* Croquet. (It's big at the Naval Academy.)

* Turtle racing. (A big annual Baltimore event on Johns Hopkins Hospital grounds.)

* Low-impact and chair aerobics, recommended by the American Association for Retired People.

* Shuffle board.

* Collecting baseball cards or basket weaving, recommended by the Scouts.

* Horseshoes, one of Bushes favorite vacation sports anyway.

Remember loose lips sink ships but loose ships, as in boats, can sink VIP lips!

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