AUSSIE NOTEBOOK: No, There’s No Golf Pro in the Clinton Crew
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ Never mind weighty matters like trade disputes and military cooperation, the Big Question on President Clinton’s first full day in Australia revolved around golf.
``Golf Pro Part of the Huge Cast,″ proclaimed the headline in one of Sydney’s newspapers Wednesday. The story explained that a golf pro is part of Clinton’s traveling entourage.
``To my knowledge, that is not so,″ the president said with a chuckle during a photo opportunity with Prime Minister John Howard. However, he indicated it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have some professional assistance since he is going to play golf Thursday with PGA pro Greg Norman.
``I’m going to need all the help I can get,″ Clinton said.
White House aides were befuddled by the report _ and emphatic in denying it.
``There’s NO golf pro on Air Force One, I can say that definitively,″ deputy White House press secretary Mary Ellen Glynn reported. ``Nor on Air Force Two. Nor on the press plane.″
Nonetheless, there was plenty of speculation about who might fill the role, and even a few volunteers.
One theory offered Tiger Woods, who’s in Sydney for the Australian Open.
On the subject of golf, Clinton endorsed the idea of having the PGA President’s Cup tournament played in Australia in 1998.
``If we can pull it off,″ Howard said, ``we’d be delighted. And we’re very delighted to have the president’s endorsement.″
Traditionally, reporters are not allowed into camera-only photo opportunities with the prime minister but the rules were relaxed for Clinton’s visit.
Clinton’s short hop to Canberra on Wednesday for a speech to Parliament and meetings with Australian leaders involved a last-minute substitution.
The president had planned to fly on a Boeing 707 to the Australian capital because of Canberra’s relatively short runway.
But when communications equipment on the plane malfunctioned, the White House switched to the larger Boeing 747 that serves as Air Force One.
Glynn said there was no mechanical problem with the 707 itself, just with equipment the president uses to keep in touch.
``He can’t be out of touch with the ground,″ Glynn said.
Despite the limited runway, the larger plane landed without incident.
Legislators who often hurl insults at one another in Australia’s Parliament were ordered to behave themselves during Clinton’s speech. No unseemly clapping or beating on desks, they were admonished.
But the instructions went unheeded: Clinton received standing ovations as he arrived and left the hall, and he attracted applause at several points during his remarks.
Clinton is generally welcomed with a standing ovation when he addresses Congress. But in Canberra, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Bob Halverson, ruled that such a show of approval is too often ``the subject of atmospherics and sometimes whimsy.″
Prime Minister John Howard said clapping constitutes ``unparliamentary behavior.″
``I take the opportunity to remind all members that it is not only unparliamentary to clap, but the conventional way of supporting those initiatives that we hear in the chamber is by the traditional `hear, hear,‴ Halverson said.
``What I am sure many of us find offensive is the beating, which has become common practice. I ask members to desist forthwith from what is traditionally becoming a very poor practice of beating their desks.′