Hey, Prez: Let shoe firms pay for track

Phil Jackman

February 25, 1993|By Phil Jackman

Like 98 percent of the so-called economic experts in this country, I have no idea if President Clinton's recovery package has a chance of succeeding -- assuming, of course, he gets it by the wake-me-when-it's-over Congress.

However, there is one area where I would be happy to lend my expertise to Hillary's roommate, and that's in the area of the endless "White House Jogging Track" saga. For want of a better name, let's call it Quarter-Mile Gate.

To facilitate things, just skip by the part where the overpriced track was started in the back yard of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. at the same time the Prez was preaching sacrifice and belt-tightening out front. After running a nearly flawless campaign for a year, the guy is entitled to a few mistakes to validate the law of averages.

Clinton's big mistake initially was having someone scrounge around soliciting materials and labor, donations being given freely and without regard for recompense. Ah, yeah. Then he asked a government agency, of all things, what a 400-meter oval just a couple of feet wide would cost.

As we all know, government agencies traditionally function without regard for expense and often the quality of work isn't of great consequence either. The General Services Administration quoted a figure of $30,000. Toilet seats extra.

Private contractors saw that figure and busted a gut laughing. One said he would do it for a shade more than a third of that and make a profit. But, no, he wasn't going to do it gratis. Things ain't that good yet, Bubba.

First off, what the Prez should have done some morning after lacing up is look down at his shoes: New Balance, hopefully, because they're politically correct (made in this country). Then he could have had his Secretary of Whatever hint to NB, Nike, Reebok or whomever what a nice gesture it would be to offer to construct a path. OK, put your logo on it.

After all, Reebok just signed Shaquille O'Neal to a contract worth upward of $20 million, so it certainly must have 10 grand remaining for a worthy cause such as this. If not, maybe a couple of shoe companies could split the expense and the Prez could wear a couple of different shoes. Or change footgear every 220 yards.

Actually, from what I've seen of the man from Hope as a perambulator, and we all know he's been on the telly shuffling along about a zillion times, I'd say hopeless is a more apt description.

Granted, we have no right to expect a Paavo Nurmi for our vote, but is it too much to expect a decent effort? Big Bill reminds of a yuppie runner, a guy who figures it's the thing to do, but always is holding back, never really getting into it. He gives the impression of moving along effortlessly due mainly to the fact that he is, the only moving parts being the feet as they take strides measuring no more than a foot. And slow, yikes!

No matter how spiffy any rubberized track turns out to be, it's going to look like hell in the midst of the South Lawn. And any subsequent commander-in-chief is likely to say, "Rip that thing up and bring Ike's putting green back."

Or worse, we get an annual $400,000 appropriation for the maintenance and upkeep of the track well into the 23rd century.

Bill, if you had called, I would have told you to widen the path a little bit and lay in the mulch and wood chips, the stuff that is natural to the landscape since it's laid around trees and shrubbery for protection and beauty. Besides getting you in good with the recyclists, these materials are tops for those guarding against jointal breakdown occasioned by advancing age.

As for security, the factor that got this track business started in the first place, there's really no problem. Anyone along for protection can easily be outfitted with a high-standing gray wig and made to adopt the strange gait the Prez features. Imagine a dozen Clintons chugging along; it would look like a penguins' convention.

A warning to No. 1: A quarter-mile track suggests interval training, maybe a dozen spins around the oval in 70 seconds per with a 220-yard jog in between run once a week. Think you're up to it?

P.S.: I understand the pool over at the Senate Office Building is free between 10 p.m. and midnight on Thursdays.

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