YEARS ago it was interviewer David Frost who put the question to then- presidential candidate George Wallace on television.
Mr. Frost didn't offer any preparation for what he was about to ask; he simply said it was an important question and was asking it near the end of an obviously difficult interview. Wallace had been combative and edgy.
"What are people for?" Frost asked.
Wallace, governor of Alabama at the time, blinked and then struggled through a kind of irritated response indicating he didn't think much of the question, that it wasn't appropriate for a political campaign, and he couldn't see any reason to answer it.
Frost persisted and wondered if someone seeking the office of president might have some kind of an answer for such an admittedly surprising question. Wallace refused to even tentatively stick his toe in the frosty waters of cosmic human purpose.
Frost turned to the camera and said something about how disappointed millions of viewers would be.
Wallace was silent.
Aside from the most personal of questions, I think there are few questions during a presidential campaign that shouldn't be asked of candidates. Whether they reply or not, and what they might say, is all part of the process that reveals character and intent. After all, what are questions for?
In a recent article in a local newspaper, an angry man in Nashua, N.H., watched the media swarm around Gov. Bill Clinton after he had asked Governor Clinton a question.
"This is a circus," the man was quoted as saying to the crowd of reporters and cameramen. ve got more questions and I'm going to meet him again, head to head, and ask them."
In the conviction that a lot of voters and citizens have many important questions they would like to ask the candidates this year, particularly President Bush, this column hereby solicits questions from readers to be put to the candidates.
I can't promise that any or all of them will be answered by the candidates, but I'll try for a direct response from as many candidates as possible and publish some of the responses, as well as indications of the direction of the questions.
Some of your questions will no doubt be answered as the candidates move through the primaries and are prodded and poked by the media. But as a result of what you hear or don't hear, you may have a pointed question or two about issues, ethics, or past performance worthy of being asked of the person who will become the next president of the United States.
In addition to being a political leader and commander of the military, he is paid $200,000 a year from your taxes, plus another $50,000 a year for expenses. He also receives up to $100,000, this chunk non-taxable, for more expenses. He lives rent free in the White House and has the opportunity to spend quiet weekends at the Camp David retreat.
I'm not so sure anyone should live at the White House if he can't make a stab at answering, "What are people for?"