- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

Two ships passing

We’re back from the Toronto International Film Festival, where Bill Clinton remains so popular he could “easily” be elected Canada’s next prime minister.

“Absolutely, he is extremely popular here,” remarked Helen Lovekin, the stylish tourism-marketing representative for the government of Ontario. (Not to worry, if anybody is, as rules would require Mr. Clinton hold Canadian citizenship before seeking office.)

We stayed overnight at the historic Fairmont Royal York Hotel, which days before was the venue for a high-profile, belated 60th-birthday celebration for the former president. Among those wishing Mr. Clinton “60 more years” were wife Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, daughter Chelsea and a host of celebrities that included Kevin Spacey, Jon Bon Jovi and Billy Crystal.

And because readers no doubt would wonder, twice-divorced Canadian politician Belinda Stronach, rumored of late to be Mr. Clinton’s “new blonde,” was not on hand for Bubba’s birthday bash, a Fairmont employee assured Inside the Beltway upon our inquiry.

“Although,” she recalled on second thought, “Stronach did happen to be attending another event in the hotel that same day.”

Devil aside

Yes, one could argue, that is former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman representing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the outspoken Latin American leader who took to the floor of the U.N. General Assembly only yesterday to label President Bush “the devil.”

“The devil came here yesterday,” said Mr. Chavez, referring to Mr. Bush’s address to the United Nations on Tuesday. “He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world.”

Kevin McCauley, editor of the public-relations publication odwyerpr.com, tells Inside the Beltway that Mrs. Whitman’s firm, Whitman Strategy Group, is “repping” Hovensa LLC, a joint-venture oil-refining operation of Petroleos de Venezuela, the national oil company of Venezuela.

Under Mr. Chavez, Mr. McCauley reports, the company is seeking to take over control of joint ventures made with U.S. companies such as Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips.

Among the Whitman Strategy Group members working the account, he reveals, are Vice President Jane Kenny, a former EPA regional administrator, and Senior Vice President Ellen McGinnis, who was Mrs. Whitman’s chief of staff at EPA.

Seed to barrel

Snifters of rye whiskey will be raised when Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, arrives in Washington next week.

On Wednesday, we’re told, His Royal Highness will travel by motorcade south along the George Washington Memorial Parkway to Mount Vernon, where he’ll cut the ribbon for the newly reconstructed George Washington Distillery, the culmination of a five-year, $2.1 million archaeological project.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, George Washington in 1797, on the advice of his Scottish-born estate manager James Anderson, constructed an impressive distillery adjacent to his gristmill. The enterprise grew to become one of the largest whiskey distilleries of early America, producing 11,000 gallons in 1799.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will be on hand to welcome Prince Andrew, as will master distillers who plan to hand-bottle Washington’s rye whiskey recipe from a replica 18th-century pot still.

Full disclosure

If only more congressmen and senators were as transparent as Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican. The lawmaker follows the wisdom of former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Encouraging more transparency in Congress during these days of apparent lobbying reform, Mr. Culberson has taken the extraordinary step of listing every one of his appropriations and authorization projects on the front page of his official congressional Web site.

And he encourages his fellow lawmakers who presently tout only their biographies, press releases and candid pictures to follow his lead.

New frontier

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is officially a blogger.

Mrs. Spellings’ deputy press secretary, Trey Ditto, says the secretary has just posted her first-ever exclusive online blog interview with RedState.com.

“This is her first experience in the blogosphere, and I really can’t think of any other Cabinet member who has done one,” Mr. Ditto notes.

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

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