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Whose visit'

Editorials

The president's trip to Medford was managed to the ultimate degree

He came, he saw, he left. But relatively few saw him ' and a hand-picked few at that. President Bush's whirlwind visit to the Rogue Valley seemingly was over almost before it began. Air Force One touched down just after 10 a.m., and the president was airborne again by 2.

In between was a brisk drive through Jacksonville to the remains of the Squire fire in the Applegate. A few fortunate spectators caught a fleeting glimpse of Bush through an automobile window as he sped by.

Then it was back to the Jackson County Expo, where Bush delivered what amounted to a stump speech to an invitation-only crowd. The presidential motorcade then left the Expo, avoiding a handful of protesters in the process, en route back to the airport for the president's departure.

We recognize the need to protect the nation's chief executive from those who wish him harm. And we understand that security precautions are even tighter after Sept. 11, for good reason.

Still, it's hard to see the value in a visit by the leader of a government of the people that doesn't involve, well, the people.

Days before Bush arrived, military cargo planes delivered tons of equipment. A small army of advance staff made preparations, including elaborate decorations for the Compton Arena and extensive security. Local police agencies provided manpower and vehicles.We don't know the total cost of the visit, but we're sure it would stagger the imagination.

Would it have been so difficult to provide at least one venue where the general public could have a chance to see and hear the president in person? Security is certainly a concern, but surely the more than 5,000 people invited to the Expo speech weren't individually screened in advance.

The trip was billed as a forum to announce new policies regarding forest thinning, but it was much more of a campaign event for Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican up for re-election in November.

From Medford, Bush traveled to Portland, where he spoke at a GOP fund-raiser. The event hauled in an Oregon record &

36;1 million for Smith and the state Republican Party.

The only real difference between the two speeches was that the folks here didn't have to pay to get in. But they did have to have a ticket, and tickets weren't available to the general public.

The demonstrators who showed up at the fairgrounds were kept far away from the action, and an attempt by a few of them to block the presidential motorcade was thwarted when the security officials chose a different route. The protesters who staged the sit-in in the roadway didn't do much to further their cause. Did they really think they could outwit the Secret Service?

Still, the entire visit seemed orchestrated to prevent any contact between Bush and anyone who didn't already agree with him. Someone who just wanted to hear the president but wasn't on the list of supporters was out of luck.

When President Gerald Ford visited Medford a quarter-century ago, he spoke downtown, in Alba Park, to anyone who wanted to show up.

Times have changed since then. And not for the better.

Win-win

The Head Start program in west Medford is moving to a good place for a preschool program: nearby Jackson Elementary School.

Starting this fall, 38 preschoolers will receive services in two classrooms that are vacant because of state budget cuts and enrollment declines.

The program had to leave its former digs in a building on North Oakdale Avenue when the building's owner, the YMCA, decided to use the space for a child-care program.

Everyone benefits from the move. The Y gets space it needs, and Head Start gets classroom space in a school, which will help ease the transition as kids move from Head Start to public school classes.

Financially, things work out well, too. Head Start will pay considerably less rent.

It's the kind of solution that makes everyone smile.