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Once Again, a Little Rock From Arkansas

By Richard Leiby
Sunday, January 16, 2005; Page D03

He (hearts) rock-and-roll: Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won't just be another Republican party animal during inaugural festivities. He'll be part of the entertainment. Huckabee brings his rock band, Capitol Offense, back to Washington this week to play at a ball put on by Free Republic, a conservative news and activism Web site.

"We played four years ago," the bass-playing governor told us. "It's one of those wonderful situations where it's rare to be invited the first time and even more rare to be invited back." The band's three-hour set will include boomer-pleasing songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the Eagles.

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The eight-man Capitol Offense formed shortly after Huckabee took office in 1996. They're all state politicos -- "just some guys going down to the basement of the governor's mansion and jamming," he said. But now the band is polished enough to have opened for Willie Nelson,Percy Sledge, .38 Special and Grand Funk Railroad this year alone.

Must be some heavy musical mojo flowing through that Arkansas mansion. Former governor Bill Clinton enlivened his own inauguration in 1993 by playing "Your Mama Don't Dance" on the saxophone. "We don't have a sax player," Huckabee noted. "Maybe we can get him to sit in sometime."

'Ali G's' Sacha Cohen, Throwing Some Bull at the Rodeo

The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington wants the world to know: An HBO comedian passing himself off as "Borat of Kazakhstan" is an imposter. The diplomatic indignation comes because Sacha Baron Cohen, star of "Da Ali G Show," has struck again.

This time the British funnyman pranked folks at a rodeo in Salem, Va., with his role as the Kazakh journalist named Borat Sagdiyev. He publicly butchered the national anthem before a crowd of 4,000 and called on President Bush to "drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq."

Wearing a cowboy hat and an American flag shirt, Cohen tricked rodeo organizers into thinking he was a documentary TV reporter who wanted to show his support for the war on terror by singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." He told the audience: "I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards." He urged them to sit down rather than stand, then belted out a version of the anthem that ended with the words, "Your home in the grave."

A chorus of boos erupted. "If he had been out there a minute longer, I think somebody would have shot him," one stunned observer told the Roanoke Times after the Jan. 7 debacle.

Cohen, who also delights in pranking policy wonks using the guise of hip-hopper Ali G, is a continuing headache for the Kazakh Embassy. He has claimed on his show that his "countrymen" hate Gypsies and Jews and shoot dogs. Sounding exasperated, embassy press secretary Roman Vassilenko told us Friday: "Sacha Baron Cohen has nothing to do with Kazakhstan. He does not represent Kazakhstan. He does not speak for Kazakhstan. He doesn't even look like a Kazakh."

Despite its consternation, the embassy has not lodged a protest with HBO. "We have made our position known in the media," said Vassilenko. Consider yourself warned, America.

Annals of Puffery

An Occasional Verbatim Press Release

"Renowned fashion designer Ralph Lauren, who was born, raised and continues to reside in New York, actually loves the Western lifestyle. 'Believe it or not, I don't really like the formality of the city,' Lauren told Cowboys & Indians magazine's January issue. 'In New York, it's always, who are you sitting next to at the museum dinner? Are you at the right table in a restaurant? Are you being recognized? There aren't any of those kinds of pressures on the ranch.' . . .

"In the exclusive interview at his very private Double RL Ranch in Ridgeway, Colo., Lauren provides a glimpse of himself that only family and a handful of friends get a chance to see. For Lauren, the 16,000-acre ranch isn't just a getaway but a place where he and wife Ricky and three children can simply 'be.' Days are filled with horseback riding and walking in the hills together. But the Double RL Ranch isn't a playground for the rich and famous, it's a place that represents what is good and right."

The First Daughter and Her First Job

Mystery in the classroom: Has presidential daughter Jenna Bush started work at a District charter school? And is she actually a teacher?

The White House has been rigidly tight-lipped on those subjects. As best we can determine, Jenna has started her career in Washington as a teacher's aide -- apparently because she isn't yet qualified to command a classroom under the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, the education initiative her father signed into law in 2002.

We reported last month that Jenna was set to teach at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in the Mount Pleasant/Columbia Heights neighborhood. The school serves low-income, predominantly minority children in kindergarten through sixth grades. The White House would not release specifics and only confirmed that the 22-year-old would teach at a public school in the District.

After hearing rumblings in recent days that Jenna had started at the Stokes school as a teaching assistant, we called executive director Linda Moore. "Jenna Bush is not employed as a teacher at the school," she bluntly informed us Friday. Asked whether Bush was working as an assistant teacher, Moore said: "I can't confirm that."

Hmm. When pressed, Moore suggested we school ourselves on the No Child Left Behind law, noting it has "some very strict requirements about who can be hired and what their credentials have to be, and they do apply to charter schools." Under the law, a highly qualified teacher has to hold a bachelor's degree in the subject or pass an equivalency test. Jenna has a bachelor's in education from the University of Texas at Austin.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for first lady Laura Bush, told us Friday: "Jenna Bush has started work." Asked when she started and where, he said, "I don't have any additional information."

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