I firmly believe that we would be a lucky nation if someday my foster son would agree to run for president. I became obsessed with the idea of President Clinton meeting him. I thought it would be good for both of them.
So one Saturday morning a few weeks ago, we were among a group of people whom the president shook hands with after his radio address from the Oval Office. A photographer took a picture of the president kissing my son. With any luck, like the Kennedy/Clinton photo, it'll be a source of inspiration that steers him into the presidency.
It's hard for me to be unbiased about Clinton. I hardly paid any attention to all the scandals at first because I didn't want to know. I want the president to help fix the economy and make our country more fair to all citizens, hopefully before he gets thrown out of office for whatever he did before he got there.
Even so, Mother Jones recently sent me to Little Rock to talk to people who know Clinton and better understand the various scandals. A lot of people had already come to ask about Whitewater. One reporter on the same mission may have been struck over the head as he entered his hotel room one night after asking some probing questions. I put my hands over my head every time I entered my room.
Most people I talked to claim to have no use for Bill Clinton, yet none of them believe there was any significance to the ongoing Whitewater investigation.
My first interview was with John Robert Starr, the former managing editor of the former Arkansas Democrat. I had a tape recorder which I brandished about only to find later there was only static on the tape. Someone might have tampered with it. Perhaps I was getting a little too close.
Starr is very anti-Clinton. After he told me Clinton has an inability to keep his word, I couldn't help telling him about the photo at the White House. He was unmoved.
I also talked to political consultant (not Clinton's) Jerry Russell. He too felt that Clinton, in general, is not forthcoming with all of the truth. I asked him if his clients, politicians, ever lie, and he replied, "I tell them not to."
Everyone I talked to there was extremely concerned that the rest of the country thinks the population of Arkansas are "Bubbas," "L'il Abners," "stupid," "slow," and/or "good ol' boys." And that many do not know where Arkansas is located. As a representative of the rest of the country I reassured them that I've never heard anyone call them those things and that, in the rest of the country, we barely think about our own states. Still, they were upset and wanted me to tell you that Arkansas is just above Louisiana.
Joe Purvis has known Clinton all of his life and loves him. The worst thing Joe said about Bill is that he wore a funny pair of shorts one summer. Joe believes that President Clinton is sincere in his concern for people. I considered never leaving Joe's law office.
Later, I talked to Meredith Oakley, a columnist at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She told me she has firsthand knowledge of Clinton lying. I asked, "Is it possible to become president without lying?" I guess she did not recognize my question as a cry for help, because she shot back, "I don't know; I only know Clinton. Perhaps you know other presidents."
When she told me that "Bill Clinton put his pants on one leg at a time," I wondered if that was more firsthand knowledge or if, in the area of putting on pants, she felt it was safe to speculate.
My memory is kind of shaky on this, but it seems like, at one point, she tried to bite me. I heard her say, "It's hard to be impressed with a guy who picks his nose and has halitosis."
By the time I left Arkansas I was quite depressed. Not just because so many people in Little Rock had spoken negatively of Clinton, but because they failed to mention any bright alternative. Hey, I voted for Jerry Brown in the primary, but do you have any idea how cold it'll be in hell before this country elects someone like Jerry Brown? The guy wears turtlenecks.
After serving one term as governor of Arkansas, Clinton lost his job in the next election. He went around the state asking people what they didn't like, and a common response was they were upset that Hillary hadn't taken his last name. So Clinton asked Hillary to take his name. Then people criticize them for being phony. I appreciate the Clintons' willingness to be phony on a truly goofy issue in order to be in a place to influence real ones.
I still want my foster son to be president, but it will be a hell of a sacrifice on his part.
Letters to Paula
William E. Smith, e-mail: I tend to agree that e-mail may be an enormous waste of technology. However, it's faster than U.S. Snail Mail.
A: Yours was the first letter I received with the reference to the U.S. Postal Service as "Snail Mail." There were many. E-mail users have their own little language.
Most of the letters I received this month were from e-mail users who were angry with the claim I made that e-mail is often a huge waste of time. "Is not," many of the letters argued, one including a convincing little poem. Perhaps you could put the word out on the twilight bark or something that it's not that I think that the technology is a waste, but that it is wasted.
Still, I don't understand how people can be so critical of the post office. Anyone can put three lines of information and an inexpensive stamp on an envelope and have it hand-delivered thousands of miles away. And when I talked to Robert Massa, the postmaster of the Roslyn Heights, N.Y., post office, he didn't say one goofy poem to me.
Michael Rosenthal, Fairfax, Calif.: Why does eating asparagus make one's pee smell funny?
A: I've wondered that myself, but I never would have asked anyone. I certainly wouldn't have written it in a letter with my name and address.
It reminded me of when, in the fifth grade, I missed the sex education talk, and my classmate Barbara Sullivan told me what I missed. I didn't believe her, of course. When I got home I got out the World Book Encyclopedias, volumes "S," "V," "B," and "P." When my mother came in i was terrified she'd know what topic i was inquiring about. I still think Barbara Sullivan was wrong.
Anyway, Michael, for you I went to the library. Right beside a book called "Will It Freeze?" I found a book of tables of food composition. There was no mention of this characteristic of asparagus.
I hated to bother my high school biology teacher with this, partly because I'd have to mention the subject of urine to both him and probably his wife, my high school math teacher. When I couldn't get past the obvious reference book cover-up, however, I called.
Charlie went to his library in Massachusetts and, at first, called to tell me he couldn't find out. I imagine he had been too embarrassed to ask for help, because when I asked if he saw the "Will It Freeze?" book, he didn't know what I was talking about. I guess that the disappointment in my voice, on your behalf, michael, must have been great, because late last night I got a message from Charlie saying that asparagus has large amounts of ketones, which cause this phenomenon. Beets do a similar thing. I think, somehow, I've grown from this experience.
Write Paula at email@example.com.