- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

Not cozy with Bush

Canada’s new ambassador to the United States, who was selected because of his political skills, immediately had to deny that he has any special influence with the Bush administration, after Canadian reporters questioned his relationship with American leaders.

Frank McKenna, former premier of the province of New Brunswick, is Canada’s first political appointee — not a career diplomat — to be sent to Washington, and he was chosen partially to help repair the damage done to U.S.-Canadian relations by Canada’s opposition to the war in Iraq.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who has expressed his own desire for better ties with President Bush, praised Mr. McKenna’s “experience and skill” when he announced the appointment on Friday.

Mr. McKenna, often described as one of Canada’s leading politicians, has played golf with former President Bill Clinton and with Mr. Bush’s father and serves on the Canadian advisory board of the prestigious Carlyle Group, the $18 billion American equity firm that includes powerful former officials, such as James A. Baker III, who held several top positions under former President George Bush.

Mr. McKenna told reporters in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, that his connections in Washington are exaggerated.

“I think that my connections, if I can be totally candid here, have been totally overblown,” he said. “Am I cozy with folks? I’m afraid not. I’ve met with Bush Senior and Clinton. I know some of the people in some of the parties, but I wouldn’t pretend to call [the relationships] cozy.”

Mr. Martin, who hosted a visit by Mr. Bush last month, said in announcing the appointment that Mr. McKenna’s “experience and skill will be a great asset, as we begin to implement the agenda that President Bush and I set out during his recent visit — to enhance the shared security, prosperity and quality of life between our two peoples.”

Mr. McKenna, 56, served three terms as premier of New Brunswick, from 1987 to 1997, before entering the private sector. He has said he will resign from several corporate boards on which he serves before taking up his position here in March.

Praising King

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said his country shares many of the same values championed by Martin Luther King, as he presented civil rights awards last week at the Israeli Embassy.

“Dr. King’s contributions have lasted far beyond his lifetime, and his influence has extended far beyond his own community,” Mr. Ayalon said. “We will never forget Dr. King’s excellent relations with the Jewish community and his support of Israel.”

Mr. Ayalon presented the embassy’s 2005 Civil Rights Leadership Awards to Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Theodore Bikel, the actor, folk singer and political activist.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• A delegation from the Swedish parliament led by Marianne Carlstrom, deputy chairman of the Standing Committee on Civil Law. They meet members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees and officials at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Patent and Trademark Office and Federal Trade Commission.

Wednesday

• Mario Marin Torres, governor-elect of the Mexican state of Puebla. He discusses U.S.-Mexican relations with invited guests at the Inter-American Dialogue.

• Kalman Mizsei, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and assistant administrator of the U.N. Development Program. He addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on the future of Ukraine.

Friday

• Ricardo Uceda, a Peruvian investigative journalist and author, who addresses invited guests at the Inter-American Dialogue.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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