For Bush Daughters, (Night) Life Isn't Fair

We hope those fun-loving first twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush, had a good time Wednesday night at Stetson's, the Texas-themed Washington saloon where they were spotted by multiple witnesses sucking down Budweisers and chain-smoking cigarettes with a group of friends till well past midnight.

But we suspect that as a result of this item, President Bush's 20-year-old daughters -- who've had embarrassing scrapes in the past over their under-age drinking in public places -- won't be consuming much more alcohol in the nation's capital, at least not until they reach the legal age of 21 on Nov. 25.

On the other hand, we hear they did enjoy themselves. Four Stetson's patrons, who told us they were sitting with members of a softball league at the next table on the bar's second floor, gave us a fill on condition of anonymity. "I don't want to be involved in this story in any way, shape, manner or form," one 28-year-old witness, a government employee, told us urgently.

Yesterday our sources -- who expressed concerns that going public about the Bush girls would be bad for their careers -- said one of the twins got down on the floor to help an inebriated young man perform a party trick in which he seemed to rotate his wrist 360 degrees. In the general haze, it wasn't clear if the helper was Jenna or Barbara.

"I have to admit I was pretty drunk," said the party trick performer, who initially told us we could use his name, but then had second thoughts. "My friend and I were at the bar, and he told me there were the Bush daughters at the table. I went up to them and asked them, 'What's your name?' And they laughed and said something like, 'Slayton.' So then I started performing some of my magic tricks. And I have this one trick where it's like I'm double-jointed and I move my hand around in the joint. When I asked for help, one of the girls -- I think it was the light-haired one -- volunteered. She got down on her knees next to me and helped twist my hand. I think the trick really shocked her."

Witnesses said Jenna and Barbara, who were with half a dozen friends, had no visible security, and a source sympathetic to them told us it's understandable why they'd want to down beers in a bar: "They're college students on summer break. It's hot outside. Duh!"

Stetson's owner Rob Deisroth -- who initially responded with an "Oh Lord!" when we called for comment yesterday -- said he wasn't on the premises when the Bush girls were spotted, and added that his waiters and bartenders didn't recognize them. It wasn't clear yesterday how the girls obtained the beers, or whether they were asked for identification.

"The median age of my customers is 29 -- I cater to an older crowd -- but if somebody looks visibly under 21, we card them," Deisroth said. "I suppose I could have somebody sitting at my front door to card people as they walk in, but that seems a little unpersonable."

Under-age drinking is a misdemeanor in D.C., and if a fake I.D. is used, the penalty can be up to a year in jail and a $300 fine. Unlike in Texas -- where authorities merely cited the Bush girls when they caught them drinking in Austin -- D.C. law requires the police to arrest an offender and take them to jail.

Even if the offender has Secret Service protection?

"Absolutely," said Police Lt. Patrick Burke, who oversees enforcement of the drinking laws. "We never have an issue with them. We understand that the Secret Service has a job to do, and they understand that we do, too."

Noelia Rodriguez, press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush, said: "All I can tell you is that the daughters are private citizens and we don't comment on their personal lives."


* Kennedy Center patrons Eduardo Romero and Connie Campbell were outside the Eisenhower Theater heading to Wednesday night's performance of "Sweeney Todd" when, Romero e-mailed, "I heard a portly gentleman next to me explain to his quite younger female companion, 'I am fairly well known here so be prepared to have people stare at you.'" Who was this self-conscious celebrity? Why, Washington culture vulture Robert Aubry Davis, on his way to a performance of the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company and deftly avoiding the paparazzi.* We have long known that NBC News Supreme Court correspondent Pete Williams was a man of parts. A dozen years ago, when he was then-defense secretary Dick Cheney's Pentagon spokesman, he threw himself into tap-dancing lessons. Now we hear he's an accomplished landscape photographer -- the Ansel Adams of judicial reporters. "I use a large-format camera where it takes about an hour and a half to make a single exposure," Williams told us yesterday. "I use a Canham camera -- basically the same kind of camera that Mathew Brady dragged around his day, except it's made of lightweight aluminum, not brass and wood and leather." Williams's mostly black-and-white photographs of his native Wyoming are on display as part of a group show at the Results Gym Gallery on Capitol Hill, and Cheney daughters Elizabeth and Mary were expected at last night's launch party.