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Watch this

For 24 hours, the international non-incident was called “Watchgate” by a global press fixated by the idea that President Bush lost his watch while rubbing elbows with the citizens of Albania earlier this week.

Was he pickpocketed? Was he careless? Inquiring minds and restless pundits reviewed an ABC News video of the moment again and again yesterday, looking for clues. White House spokesman Tony Snow cleared up the mystery, which had already assumed conspiracy-theory status. The watch was not lifted or lost.

“The president put it in his pocket, and it returned safely home,” Mr. Snow said.

The saga barreled on, nonetheless, but National Review Online’s John Derbyshire used the story as “an excellent opportunity to recycle a Soviet-era joke.”

It goes something like this: It seems Soviet leaders Josef Stalin and NikitaKhrushchev were touring their Eastern European satellite countries aboard a train, tracking their progress by time. Ten o’clock meant they were in Czechoslovakia, 2:30 meant Hungary, the joke went.

Khrushchev: “Sorry, I’m lost yet again. What country are we in now?”

Stalin: “What time is it?”

Khrushchev (lifts wrist to look at watch): “Hey. My watch. It’s gone.”

Stalin: “Ah, this must be Romania.”

A little adjustment

White House hopeful Rudolph W. Giulianiintroduced yesterday a dozen campaign tenets, which included vows to keep the nation protected and to end illegal immigration.

But the former New York mayor — who is both Republican and Catholic — may also be using the moment to tweak his public stance on abortion.

Previously, Mr. Giuliani has said that while he personally opposes the procedure, he thinks women should still have the right to terminate a pregnancy. Thomas J. Tobin, the bishop of Providence, R.I., called him “pathetic” and “hypocritical” in a column in the Rhode Island Catholic earlier this month. Assorted analysts have said it would cost him “the Bible Belt vote.”

Mr. Giuliani’s 12-step campaign program includes a vow to “increase adoptions, decrease abortions and protect the quality of life for our children.”

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