Day-tripper from the White House Clinton's visit suggests presidents should drop in more often.

February 12, 1997

WITH ANNAPOLIS 40 easy miles from the White House -- rush hours aside -- it is puzzling that presidents don't partake of the pleasures of Maryland's state capital more often. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the last president to actually spend time in the city when he alighted from a ferry after a visit to the Eastern Shore in 1936.

President Clinton ended the 61-year hiatus Monday with a visit to the Maryland General Assembly to discuss education and welfare reform. He then enjoyed a couple of hours of shopping and eating near the State House.

This was not his first trip to Annapolis. He visited the U.S. Naval Academy on other occasions but, as was the case with several of his predecessors, Mr. Clinton simply helicoptered back to the nation's capital without venturing past "the Yard."

Suffering from the kind of ennui that comes from political life inside-the-beltway, the president extended his stay this time. Despite pleas from aides who reminded him several times that

he was destroying his schedule, Mr. Clinton was determined to enjoy himself.

After delivering his speech to the legislature, followed by the obligatory hand-shaking with state lawmakers and bureaucrats, the president decided it was too nice a day to immediately return to the Oval Office. He got into his limousine, but got out when the driver turned onto Maryland Avenue, a picturesque, brick road off State Circle where time has pretty much stood still.

Mr. Clinton bought some historical books, purchased Valentine's Day gifts for his wife and daughter and, along with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, feasted on some seafood chowder at the Little Campus. Mr. Clinton couldn't resist some hand-shaking with voters, including a number of Republicans who admitted they were mightily impressed.

Judging by his smile and his extended stay, Mr. Clinton had a good time and was impressed with Annapolis, where the locals gave him a warm reception. He has four more years in which to return to the town that served briefly as home to the Continental Congress. In fact, had the Founding Fathers not thought the city by the bay a little too expensive a place to establish a federal government two centuries ago, the president might even be living there now.

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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