- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

So long, Skins

Fortunately, it was a school night for my daughter, so she didn't join me at the Monday night football game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field in Landover.

If she had, I'd be insisting that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, at a minimum, reimburse us for the cost of each $79 ticket. As it stands now, I don't want her to attend another Redskins game. It isn't safe.

It's bad enough that Redskins games are no longer the "family" sporting events they were when my father took me and my brothers to football games at the now-empty RFK Stadium. Given that Redskins ticket prices and concessions are now the costliest in the NFL, many Washington families can't afford it.

On top of that, as I witnessed Monday night, the personal safety of fans and even team players can no longer be guaranteed.

A friend and I sat in Section 121, choice "lower level" seats 20 rows above the field near the 50-yard-line. The Eagles were trouncing the Redskins, and by the end of the third quarter, heated exchanges between Washington and Philadelphia fans erupted into bloody altercations everywhere you looked.

Unbeknownst to most, a Prince George's County police officer was pulled to the ground during one such melee in the rear of our section and his fellow officer dispensed a "caustic" spray. The entire section began gagging, with many fearing that a dreaded chemical attack had been unleashed by terrorists.

As we choked in our seats, an alarming announcement came from the field: "A foreign substance has been thrown onto the Eagles' sideline."

Players began vomiting. Eyes began burning. Many players covered their heads with towels and jerseys. An ABC Sports camerawoman overcome by the noxious fumes abandoned her sideline perch. Play was halted for eight minutes. Still, the fighting didn't cease.

Redskins coach Steve Spurrier was wrong. The Washington Redskins did not let down their fans Monday night in their 37-7 loss to Philadelphia. Rather, the Redskins fans let down their football team, their city, and the dad and young son who sat next to me.

Monica's scapegoat?

The White House is as close as we get in this country to sacred ground, intern hopefuls will read in the "Insider's Guide to Political Internships: What to Do Once You're in the Door."

Bill Clinton and his pantry playmate, Monica Lewinsky, would certainly agree with the book's initial words of advice: "If you are caught breaking the rules, you will embarrass yourself and possibly the president."

"Believe it or not," say political scientists and co-authors Grant Reeher and Mack Mariani, "this is not as obvious to everyone as it may seem. One intern in the Clinton White House was lucky enough to be stationed in the West Wing."

Miss Lewinsky, right? Wrong.

In fact, the authors don't even mention the most famous intern ever to stroll through the black gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Rather, this particular intern's encounter was with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"On one of the several days that the New York Yankees came to the White House as World Series champions, there was an event on the South Lawn honoring the team," the guide reveals. "This intern's luck continued, as he was invited to attend the event. But then he pressed his luck: He made his way into the White House and joined the VIP photo line with President and Mrs. Clinton.

"When he came up in the line, the first lady turned to him, glanced at his badge (intern badges are adorned with a large 'I'), and said, in a less-than-friendly voice, 'Who do we have here?' That intern was never seen around the White House again."

Retreats, you say?

President Bush has been back in the White House for just about two weeks, which means he's no doubt itching already to return to his 1,600-acre ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Mr. Bush isn't the first White House occupant to savor a change of scenery to escape the pressures of the job.

"Thomas Jefferson built the first presidential retreat, Poplar Forest," notes former Reagan adviser and author Peter Hannaford, whose latest book is titled "Ronald Reagan and His Ranch."

George Washington had the nearest retreat, escaping to his beloved Mount Vernon just 13 miles south of Washington. John Adams recessed to Peacefield farm in Quincy, Mass., and just like today was excoriated by one newspaper for leaving the capital at a time when public opinion was "exceedingly agitated."

James Madison preferred Montpelier in Virginia, while James Monroe fled to Ash Lawn and Oak Hill, both designed by Jefferson. It was Theodore Roosevelt who made popular the "summer White House," when almost the entire White House operation is boxed up and moved to the hinterlands.

Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to have a ranch as his retreat, which reporters didn't mind as much as Jimmy Carter's spread in Plains, Ga., where one newspaper scribe posted in the peanut fields called it "the longest two weeks I have ever spent."

Like Mr. Bush today, Ronald Reagan longed for his Rancho del Cielo near Santa Barbara, Calif. In fact, he like our current president greeted so many world leaders at the ranch that he renamed its main road "Pennsylvania Avenue."

And "intruders" of the so-called Western White House, recalls Mr. Hannaford, weren't of the same variety encountered in Washington. Which posed an unusual challenge to Secret Service agents.

"One day," Mr. Reagan wrote in his memoirs, "an agent came down from his post on the hill above the house, and his eyes were wide as saucers. He'd been sitting on his camp stool watching the house when a big mountain lion strolled past him only a few feet away."

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