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Of Course the President Remembers You!

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Okay, so maybe we're a little slow sometimes picking up on real news. But at least our memory is a tad better than President Bush's.

We just came across this interview he gave to Asian journalists in the Roosevelt Room on Aug. 30 before heading to Australia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

One of the journalists asked Bush about Malaysia, and Bush extolled his wonderful relationship with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, a real close pal.

"I respect Prime Minister Badawi, admire his leadership," Bush said. "When his wife died, I tried to call him early just to let him know I cared about him."

"He has remarried," one of the journalists told him.

"Has he?" Bush asked. "Good. I'll congratulate him. Thanks for giving me that heads-up. Don't put that in the article that you had to tell me that. You can put it in there if you want. I'll be glad to -- I'm going to congratulate him. That's neat."

"You did, sir," interjected National Security Council aide Dennis Wilder.

"What?"

"You did congratulate him."

"Exactly. I'm going to congratulate him again," Bush said, trying to recover as the journalists laughed. "I'll double the congratulations. That's right, I did write him a note. I forgot. Did I call him or write him a note?"

"You wrote him a note," Wilder said.

"That's right, yes. Sent him a couple flowers."

Sure hope Wilder reminds Bush about his anniversary, the twins' birthday . . .

Mis-Congeniality

Polls overseas show Muslims' views of the United States going through the floor. Even in NATO ally Turkey, the United States' favorable rating is down to 9 percent, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, down from 30 percent five years ago and 52 percent in 2000.

But public diplomacy czarina Karen Hughes says she's determined to keep plugging away to turn this around.

Hughes surfaced on Fox News on Sept. 11 to talk about her efforts. "I this morning had a meeting with Secretary Rice, talking about how we could help reach out to young people in the Palestinian territories," she said, "and how we could help foster economic development there."

Actually, her job there became easier a while back when the administration's push for democracy in the Middle East finally succeeded, and there were democratic elections in Gaza. The voters messed up, elected the wrong people, and now we do business with only one Palestinian territory.

Larry's Room

Let's have a big Loop Welcome Back for Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who returned to Washington yesterday for the first time since his Minneapolis airport bathroom adventure became public.

Craig was back at the Capitol "representing Idaho, working on transition and meeting with his legal team," spokesman Dan Whiting told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Statesman reports that the aforementioned men's room has become a hot tourist attraction. Visitors ask for "the Larry Craig bathroom," which is conveniently located right in the middle of the main shopping concourse at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"People have been going inside, taking pictures of the stall, taking pictures outside the bathroom door -- man, it's been crazy," one worker there said. Another person who works near the bathroom said she'd been asked "several times" to take pictures in front of the famous spot.

Even the locals are enchanted. Jon and Sally Westby of Minneapolis were headed to Guatemala last week, but "we had to just stop and check out the bathroom," Sally said. "In fact, it's Jon's second time. He was here last week."

"I checked it out," he said. "It's the second stall from the right."

Who needs Mayan ruins?

I'm Busy That Day

Loop reminder: Best think twice before accepting gifts or honors from Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen. Look what happened to Adm. Vladimir Masorin, chief of the Russian navy, after he accepted the Legion of Merit Aug. 24 from Mullen, then chief of naval operations, in a ceremony at the Navy Yard.

The day also happened to be Masorin's 60th birthday, which is the maximum age for senior commanders. Although commanders' terms can be extended to 65, when Masorin submitted his resignation to President Vladimir Putin, Putin refused to extend his career, according to the Moscow Times.

Could be that Masorin was bounced because he accepted the honor without first clearing it with the defense ministry, as he was supposed to. In any event, a polite but firm no thanks might be the safest response if Mullen's offering.

I'm Busy That Day, Too

Mark your calendars! We just got an invite from conservative radio talker and sometime federal government contractor Armstrong Williams to a book party on the Hill Oct. 3 for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's memoir: "My Grandfather's Son."

"Like a nice cup of tea in the afternoon," the invite says, "we hope you receive a fresh mental tonic from this long-awaited event!!" The book covers his youth and ends with his take on that nasty confirmation battle, but it doesn't include his high court days.

Valet parking available.

Now of Legal Age

The Bush administration's controversial choice to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Julie L. Myers, has won the support of Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), potentially clearing the way to her confirmation -- after nearly two years on the job as a recess appointee.

When Bush named Myers, then 36, to be assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in September '05, senators in both parties said she lacked five years of management experience as required by statute to oversee the law enforcement agency.

Myers -- who is the former chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and a niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard B. Myers, and who is married to another former Chertoff chief of staff -- received a Bush recess appointment.

"Based on your performance and on more than 20 interviews . . . of people . . . who have worked with you," Lieberman said the other day, "I believe that you have what it takes to get the job done." The committee expects to schedule a vote within a couple of weeks, a spokesman said. Myers's nomination may also be reviewed by the Judiciary Committee before reaching the Senate floor.

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