- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

French strike out

The one-day global French diplomatic strike was big news in Paris, but it hardly raised an eyebrow at the State Department.

A reporter at a press briefing yesterday asked deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, “Did anyone in the department even notice that the French Foreign Ministry and most of its diplomats … were on strike?”

“I’m not aware that there was any impact on our interests worldwide by this strike,” Mr. Ereli answered.

On Monday, when the strike began, another reporter asked spokesman Richard Boucher whether he felt “the world’s a little better off if they’re taking the day off.”

Mr. Boucher hesitated.

“It’s very tempting [to answer],” he said. “But I’ll leave the commentary to commentators on that.”

Forgot the words

Nigeria’s former ambassador to the United States was shocked to learn that several candidates for top foreign policy posts had forgotten the words to his country’s national anthem and pledge of allegiance.

Jibril Aminu, now chairman of a senate committee screening potential ambassadors, hinted that three of the nominees might have jeopardized their careers because they could not remember the basic pledge to “be faithful, loyal and honest.”

“It is an embarrassment that senior Nigerian officials do not care to know these things,” he told reporters in Lagos yesterday.

Mr. Aminu, who left Washington in February after three years, has been reviewing the nomination of 90 diplomatic candidates before sending the names to the full senate for approval.

News reports from Nigeria did not identify which nominees had failed the test.

Texan goes Swedish

President Bush picked a Texan friend, campaign fund-raiser and daredevil skier to serve as ambassador to Sweden in a move that could cause political problems for the Texas Legislature.

Teel Bivins, a key member of the Texas Senate, said in a statement, “I am deeply honored by the president’s announcement.”

However, Texas Republicans say they will miss his expertise as chairman of the Finance Committee and former head of the Education Committee. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that he is trying to learn as much as possible from Mr. Bivins before he resigns to take up the post.

Mr. Dewhurst was counting on Mr. Bivins’ 15 years’ experience in the Legislature to deal with a budget shortfall that could force cuts in public-school financing.

Mark McKinnon, another Bush campaign aide, told the newspaper about a skiing trip that involved jumping out of helicopters on a Canadian mountain side.

“Teel was just off the cliffs and down the mountain. He was blowing powder,” he said.

Sen. Bivins, scion of a ranching and oil family, raised more than $130,000 for Mr. Bush’s 2000 campaign. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would replace Ambassador Charles A. Heimbold Jr., former chairman of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. who has served in Stockholm for two years.

Humble beginnings

Self-made millionaire George Argyros, the U.S. ambassador to Spain, is the recipient of this year’s Norman Vincent Peale Award.

Mr. Argyros will be honored at an April ceremony for “commitment to the young people of our country and the entrepreneurial spirit of this nation,” said Walter Scott Jr., president of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc., which presents the annual award.

Mr. Argyros rose from a grocery-store clerk to the head of a California-based real-estate development company, Arnel. He also is a former owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. A Republican fund-raiser, Mr. Argyros donated $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]om.

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