The White House rolled out a cyber welcome mat Thursday.
Without ever leaving their seats, Americans with computer access to the Internet can sign a White House "guest book," mosey through the Oval Office, listen to a few plaintive meows from Socks the cat, scan political cartoons poking fun at Vice President Al Gore, or drop a line to President Clinton.
They also can more easily take care of serious business with the federal government, everything from retrieving documents and checking out job opportunities to finding out about veterans benefits.
It's all available to visitors to a new Internet address that offers computer users a free interactive citizen's handbook called "Welcome to the White House."
This guide to the federal government's on-line resources is gussied up with high-tech bells and whistles like electronic "photo albums," audio messages from the president, and, yes, even a guest register.
"What we're doing is bringing the entire federal government to your desktop computer," Gore said at an unveiling ceremony Thursday. Then, armed with a "mouse" clicker, the administration's cyber-commander-in-chief started surfing the Internet.
Page one of the handbook offers a picture of the White House and nine icons depicting choices that include information on the Clintons, messages from Clinton and Gore, and a directory.
Gore clicked the image of a little podium that represents Clinton and this audio message boomed out from the president: "I hope you find this a useful way to find answers to your questions, a better way to let me know what you think, and a powerful way to find information you can use."
Gore jumped from page to page with ease, poking into the Oval Office for a moment, then hopping to his own "home page" packed with personal information about the Gores, then over to the Small Business Administration.
When he clicked the icon of a money bag, information popped up on obtaining small-business loans.
"I wish it were this easy to get around the White House on crutches," lamented Gore, still hobbled by an ankle injury.
The handbook is available on the Internet computer network through a service called World Wide Web. Someone would use a World Wide Web reader to point to the HTTP server at "www.whitehouse.gov" to get in.
People without computers can get their information the old-fashioned way, by calling the Federal Information Center at (800) 347-1997.