Dumb ideas. That's our topic this week as we look at some of the incredible plans that lately have popped out of the minds of Washington politicians, including the president and vice president.

If you saw the TV footage of the mob scene in Ghana, you will know that President Clinton was truly frightened when some women in front of him were being trampled by a surging crowd of Africans that numbered at least 500,000. The rage and urgency on his face as he yelled at them to "back off" to help the women were clear. Thankfully, no serious harm was done.So what did he do next? He said he'd give the Ghanaians $500,000 to learn about crowd control. Say what? Clinton lives in a city where the parking meters don't work, which has one of the highest crime rates in the world and where the percentage of babies born out of wedlock is astronomical. And he wants to spend half a million U.S. taxpayer dollars so that police in Ghana can control a crowd that showed up only because he was the first sitting American president ever to visit Ghana.

If he'd given everybody in the crowd $1 each, he would have given them about one-sixth of their weekly income and they'd be infinitely more grateful.

Another dumb idea was hatched by Vice President Al Gore, who said he woke up in the middle of the night, sat bolt upright and conceived of an All Earth All the Time cable TV channel. Yes, there would be high-definition satellite pictures of the earth broadcast 24 hours a day: "As the Earth Turns."

Even though cynics said it would be about as exciting as watching grass grow or concrete harden or water drip, Gore was inspired enough to think Congress would appropriate as much as $50 million to get the idea off the ground, so to speak. That's going to wow the voters on the campaign trail to Election 2000.

The inimitable Senate just spent days marching up the mountain and back down. It voted, on the urging of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to make Lake Champlain the sixth Great Lake because Leahy wanted money for ecological research for the lake. Since Lake Champlain is nowhere near the size of the five Great Lakes, there was a tidal wave of outrage.

Leahy argued vociferously that while Champlain is small in comparison, it is significant because "the pivotal Battle of Valcour in 1776" helped win the Revolutionary War and the "turning point" in the War of 1812 was the Battle of Plattsburg. Nonetheless, when geographers raised their collective eyebrows, Leahy said as long as Vermont got its money, he'd be willing to let Champlain return to its old status and the Great Lakes would remain five.

Moral crusades are often good things and the anti-smoking campaign for young people is certainly one of the most worthwhile. Nonetheless, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, came up with a remarkably mindless scheme. He wants to expel students for six months if they are caught smoking or with cigarettes in their possession. If they didn't stop their disgusting, addictive behavior, would they then be expelled again?

And you thought all politicians do is go to fund-raisers and hire interns and run for re-election.