- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006


Ask President Bush to name the three most important things in his life and he might reply: God, family, country and his mountain bike. (That’s four, but who’s counting?)

Time and time again, this columnist has paid close attention to Mr. Bush’s relentless bike riding, whether it’s across the dusty terrain of his Texas ranch (We’ll never forget when he tumbled off his bike and grazed his chin, upper lip, nose, both knees and his right hand, and his 2004 White House opponent, John Kerry, inquired: “Did the training wheels fall off?”) or the woods and trails of suburban Maryland (where you’ll recall during one major terrorist scare the commander in chief wasn’t told that his wife, Laura, former first lady Nancy Reagan and Vice President Dick Cheney had all been rushed into a secure bunker until after he finished pedaling for the day).

But we digress.

The other day, we couldn’t help but be intrigued by the pool report filed by Julie Mason, who covers the White House for the Houston Chronicle, including one recent Sunday morning when the president’s schedule consisted of two things: God and biking.

“The president went to church this morning,” Miss Mason observed. “It was really cold out, and it seems like the pool might be getting closer to confirming that he actually wears his biking clothes under his suit, because a certain ‘bulkiness’ about his person was remarked on by photographers.

“And there was the usual lightning-speed costume change back at the White House,” she noted.

Indeed, after church services across the park from the White House, Mr. Bush somehow sheds his expensive suit of clothes and appears in his colorful bike-riding gear in sheer seconds.

“He rushes in and rushes out of the White House, as if he has a phone booth in there,” Miss Mason tells Inside the Beltway, joking, “I’ve never seen a man who hasn’t been drinking get out of a suit faster.”

Quote of the week

“This is part of the inside Washington babble that goes on in this town. It’s part of the parlor game.”

— White House spokesman Scott McClellan, giving little credence to a reporter’s question about purported calls from within the president’s own party for senior-level staff changes at the White House.

Nice dog, lady

You learn something new from Congress every day, including that it’s quite possible the fur you’re wearing is dog or cat.

“Over one in seven fur garments sold in the U.S. are not legally required to be labeled,” says Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. “The result is that imported clothing made from companion animals, like dogs and cats, are able to slip in under the regulatory radar.”

Mr. Moran and Rep. Mike Ferguson, New Jersey Republican, have introduced the Truth in Fur Labeling Act of 2006, which would require merchants to provide product information explaining exactly what type of fur is used to make their garments.

Cat and dog fur was a little known industry until an 18-month undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States exposed millions of cats and dogs being slaughtered each year in China for fur trim on coats, hats and other apparel.

Plastic Paddys

So, you’re among the thousands of Washington area residents wearing green on this St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps even planning to skip out of work early to gulp a pint or two of Guinness?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 35 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, nine times the population of Ireland’s 4.1 million inhabitants. (Interestingly, German ancestry is claimed most by U.S. residents.)

Furthermore, a survey conducted last year of 1,500 Washington area residents by the Alexandria public relations and marketing firm O’Keeffe & Co. found that nearly 40 percent claimed Irish heritage.

Yet, it was sadly discovered that 30 percent of Washington’s Irish clan could not name the colors of the Irish flag.

“I was shocked to learn that 5 percent of respondents failed to identify green as a color in the Irish flag, 11 percent failed to identify Guinness as an Irish beer, and 30 percent couldn’t spell potato,” said Stephen W.T. O’Keeffe, principal and founder of the company. “What would St. Patrick think?”

He wouldn’t be impressed, certainly, given that 42 percent of the respondents could not even recall that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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