- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

Now hear this

A blurb in the new Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) catalogue speaks for itself: "The Fairfax Guarantee: Reading instruction is provided free of charge to any FCPS high school graduate who is unable to read high school material. This guarantee extends to individuals who have graduated within the past five years."

Bush 101

George W. Bush insisted on a certain degree of knowledge among his campaign advisers.

In the just-published Free Press book "The Big Enchilada," Stuart Stevens, a top media adviser to the Bush presidential campaign, recalls the day that a small group of Bush aides visited the Republican nominee's Texas ranch.

"'You know what that is?' Bush asked us. He was pointing to a cluster of trees in the middle of the field. We looked at one another. Was this a trick question?

"'Trees,' Mark finally said.

"'You guys got to get out of Austin more. It's a mott. Even a windshield rancher like me knows that.'

"'You know what that is?' He pointed to some cattle grazing.

"'Cows?' Matthew suggested.

"'Good. There's hope yet.'"

Introducing justice

A bio accompanying announcement of former Attorney General Janet Reno's March 7, 2002, lecture at Old Dominion University in Norfolk reads: "During her tenure … heightened professionalism became the order of the day in the law enforcement community. She used the authority of her office … to bring 'justice' to the Department of Justice."

Mothers and borders

Yours truly has just returned from an extended visit to Canada, where like my Canadian counterparts I've rudely discovered that journalistic credentials don't carry much weight.

This week, a half-dozen of Ottawa's most formidable journalistic egos, as National Post columnist Paul Wells observes, strolled past rows of steel truck barriers, through a metal gate, and into the hulking U.S. embassy (it opened not quite two years ago) for a get-acquainted session with former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci, President Bush's hand-picked U.S. ambassador to Canada and point man for the world's most complex bilateral diplomatic relationship.

"There," Mr. Wells writes, "we were made to surrender not only our cellphones and tape recorders, but our Parliamentary ID tags ('You'll get them back,' we were assured. 'They're in the hands of the United States Marine Corps'). My suit jacket was subjected to two closely scrutinized passes through an X-ray machine. Teams of embassy staff escorted us upstairs to a conference room.

"After a few minutes, Paul Cellucci wandered in. He hardly seemed worth the fuss," says the columnist, pointing out that the session ended in short order so Mr. Cellucci could cut the ribbon on the embassy's new health club.

The only area, he concludes, where ambition seems to push Mr. Cellucci toward bold projects is lightening the world's longest undefended border so goods and people can flow far more freely.

Good luck, Mr. Ambassador.

U.S. passports are not required for entry into Canada, but as my 13-year-old daughter and I rudely discovered during our northbound journey to climb British Columbia's Mount Serendipity, a letter from "mom" is all but mandatory.

Upon our arrival at the Toronto airport, a female immigration officer inquired if we carried a letter from my daughter's mother, giving permission for her to travel with her dad. (I immediately wondered if mothers are similarly expected to carry letters from fathers when traveling with their children. I expect not.)

When I replied that no such letter was required under U.S. or Canadian law, my daughter was abruptly asked: "Does your mother know you are on this trip?"

Despite our mutual assurances that mom all but packed bologna sandwiches for our much-anticipated mountain trek, we were led to a special holding area where a second woman interrogator soon launched an emotionally draining 15-minute cross-examination that left my daughter in tears.

"Is your mother aware that you are on this trip?" my daughter was quizzed again.


"Do you want to be here?"


"Are you sure?"


"Is this your father?"


Objecting, for a second time, to the high degree of personal probing, I was warned that such outbursts could land me in the Canadian gulag.

"For all I know you could be from Turkey," the woman said (I'm half Norwegian, half Scotch-Irish). "Fortunately for you, you have an accent. Do you have any criminal record?"

At that point, seeing the tears well in my daughter's eyes, I reached into my carry-on pack and retrieved my White House correspondent's credentials, telling the officer to call George W. Bush if she didn't believe me.

"You don't have to get rude," she snapped. "For your daughter's sake, you should be thanking me. Now you'll know next time."

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