- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

Bicycle One

Yes, that mountain bicycle fastened to the bike rack of a Suburban on the busy Beltway Sunday afternoon belonged to President Bush, who was a few cars up ahead.

After returning from his tour of hurricane-battered Florida, Mr. Bush and his 11-vehicle motorcade, with little traffic control, sped around the outer loop of the Beltway to the Secret Service training center in Beltsville for a presidential bike ride.

Democratic observers

Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, smells “politics” as the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe apparently prepares to arrive in the United States to monitor the 2004 presidential election.

In fact, 10 congressmen sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanding answers “within one week,” including who had requested the OSCE’s presence.

In a recent letter to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas Democrat, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Paul V. Kelly indicated that the OSCE would be observing the federal elections this fall.

“Did the Department of State plan to invite the OSCE to observe our elections prior to having received the letter from Congresswoman Johnson dated July 8, 2004?” lawmakers asked.

Furthermore, if the OSCE “did not monitor our presidential elections in 1992, 1996 and 2000, are election observers being sent to the United States in response to the contested presidential election in 2000?”

And in what cities and states will the observation mission be deployed, and who will determine where the observers will be posted?

Finally, does the OSCE “have any authority to … issue a report or make determinations as to whether elections in the United States are ‘full’ and ‘fair?’”

As the curious congressmen see it, many OSCE members are emerging democracies that are younger than 15 years old, and would it not “be more appropriate for the OSCE to direct its resources to these newly sovereign states?”

Embassy of sorts

It was a little more than a year ago, in May 2003, that the State Department reached out to young Iranians through the “Persian Web site.”

Because the United States has no official presence in Iran, the Iranian-language site was intended to serve as a virtual embassy and cultural center for hundreds of thousands of Iranians with access to the Internet.

Now, the department says it has received hundreds of e-mails thanking the U.S. government for its support, especially during weeks of student demonstrations calling for democracy in a country that President Bush has lumped in the “axis of evil.”

Then and now

A most intriguing school test appears in Education Reporter, describing what eighth-graders in the United States were expected to know in 1910 (suffice it to say, many students today wouldn’t know where to begin).

Among 10 grammar questions: “In what must a pronoun agree with its antecedent? Illustrate.”

Under orthography, spell: “laudanum, beneficent, declension … ”

A few from the U.S. and civic history category: “State the qualifications of a U.S. senator … What has made the names of each of the following historical: Alexander Hamilton, U.S. Grant, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cyrus W. Field, Clara Barton? … Give an account of the framing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence.”

After students got through rather tough questions in geography, arithmetic and physiology, there was this easy (for students of yesteryear, at least) question: “Quote two stanzas of ‘America.’”

With a twist

Here at Inside the Beltway, we often receive intriguing political press kits, but never before has a stainless steel martini shaker appeared on our desk.

Compliments of House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier, California Republican, who for one night during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York (Mr. Dreier is convention parliamentarian) will be serving up “Dreier Big Apple Martinis” to his invited guests.

Branded brother

Should we boo or should we applaud

One so fine or fatally flawed?

Is John Kerry a hero

Or despicable zero,

Man of honor or posturing fraud?

F.R. Duplantier

• Fans of this column will enjoy John McCaslin’s new book, “Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops and Shenanigans From Around the Nation’s Capital.”

You can purchase it through BarnesandNoble.com.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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