- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2000

Cheez-Whiz bust

More than 100 diplomats boarded the Liberty Bell Express in hopes of learning more about the American political system on a visit to the Republican National Convention.

But many ambassadors complained that the daylong trip last week to Philadelphia was spoiled by bad seats in the convention hall, a shortage of convention passes, crowded receptions, the wrong food for Muslim and Hindu diplomats and, oh yes, that incident with that Cheez-Whiz sculpture of Abraham Lincoln.

The chartered train ride went smoothly, but some diplomats complained it was overcrowded with lobbyists who had paid for the excursion.

The trouble really began after they arrived on Thursday, the day George W. Bush delivered his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination.

Penne Percy Korth, a former U.S. ambassador to Mauritius, helped organize the train trip but had nothing to do with the problems that occurred at the site.

"It was a good experience for the most part," she told Embassy Row yesterday. However, she agreed with some ambassadors who complained to her about the organization of the events hosted by the national Republican Party.

"I was just as unhappy as they were," she said.

Many ambassadors said they enjoyed their briefings with former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz.

"They were very good briefings at a high level," one ambassador said.

But at lunch at the famous Union League Club, they were joined by "400 to 500 salesmen/ lawyers," as one diplomat described the lobbyists.

"It was a pathetic situation," another ambassador said.

The diplomat also said waiters mistakenly served salads with bacon bits to Muslim ambassadors and beef to Hindu diplomats.

"At my table, five of the eight ambassadors respectfully sent back their plates due to religious dietary prohibitions," the diplomat told Embassy Row.

Later the diplomats crowded into a reception sponsored by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge in a tent outside the convention hall.

"The hospitality tent was like a herd of cattle," one ambassador said.

"A lot of people got angry. There was a lot of confusion," another diplomat added. "This was no way to treat ambassadors."

At one point, a Republican Party staffer announced she had about 20 passes for the convention that would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. That set off a "diplomatic bums' rush to grab the tickets," one diplomat said.

"Sadly, in the ticket-grabbing frenzy, two female diplomats were knocked into a platter bearing a cheese sculpture of Abraham Lincoln," the diplomat said. "They emerged festooned in Cheez-Whiz."

Some of the ambassadors who got into the convention hall complained that their seats were bad. Others just went back to a chartered bus to wait for the drive back to the train station.

"After all of that," one ambassador said, "they didn't even take us to see the Liberty Bell."

Passport control?

It was almost a bonanza for illegal aliens when a box of blank U.S. passports fell off a truck in downtown Washington last week.

Although most have not been recovered, they are worthless.

"The Department of State has electronically canceled all 300 of the passports involved in this incident, rendering them unusable," said spokesman Richard Boucher.

Mr. Boucher said a car struck the box after it fell off the truck in the 1100 block of 19th Street NW. The box broke and the passports were scattered on the street and sidewalks.

Several pedestrians picked up many of the passports. Some turned the maroon-colored passports in to D.C. police or the State Department, but others, presumably, kept them.

Mr. Boucher said the Government Printing Office "is investigating the incident and will determine how to prevent such losses from its trucks in the future."

Unconventional trip

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright will not be going to the Democratic National Convention on her way to Latin America next week.

Embassy Row and one wire service reported yesterday that she would stop in Los Angeles before leaving on her Aug. 15 trip. A spokesman said she will visit the city only to speak to the National Democratic Institute.

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