There's been much France-bashing in the media of late. And there's been a fair amount of it on the Hill led by Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), who has introduced three bills this session to slap France for its opposition to war with Iraq.

Given our long-standing alliance and assistance to the French, their position was simply "inexcusable," he said. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) called France "a second-rate country," and others, including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), want to go after the French wine and mineral water industries.

Saxton even wanted the military and private companies to boycott the Paris Air Show, one of the great boondoggles for congressional travel (codels) of all time. (No chance that effort's going anywhere.)

And in California last week, protesters against the French perfidy were out dumping French wine, which is okay because California wine is better.

But now, with war approaching, there's good reason to call a halt to all this and be nice to France and say we were only kidding. The reason? Seems a French company, Eutelsat, which had been government-owned but recently went private, last fall landed a juicy $100 million or so contract from the Department of Defense for parts of a satellite that we are told may be used to support the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, which recently won great praise for a missile bull's-eye on a major terrorist.

The Eutelsat folks in Paris declined to comment on the existence of such a contract, but our sources tell us otherwise. So let's remember Lafayette and all that and stop bad-mouthing our good friends the French -- at least until the war's over.

A Shoo-in No More

Speaking of good friends . . . Canadian parliament member Carolyn Parrish's kind words last month -- "Damn Americans. I hate those bastards." -- may have jeopardized her reelection as chairwoman of parliament's NATO association.

She was said to have been a shoo-in for another two-year term atop the association, which affords wonderful travel opportunities, until she took that shot. Now, the Globe and Mail reports that lawmakers in Ottawa are thinking that Parrish, despite apologizing, has damaged her credibility and they will not vote for her to represent Canada at the NATO parliamentary assembly.

The assembly is meeting in Prague -- in New Europe -- in the spring. Prague is lovely any time, but spectacular in spring.

If It's Brussels, Is It Clockwise?

Speaking of NATO and fine travel . . . hurry, hurry, hurry, if you want to sign on to a codel that Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) is organizing next month to Europe. Tancredo, who's on the Committee on International Relations, sent a "Dear Colleague" letter around last week saying he plans "to lead a Congressional Delegation trip to Italy, Hungary and Slovenia from Sunday, April 13 through Tuesday, April 22. Military aircraft will provide transportation.

"The CoDel will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels and the capitals of various NATO member nations. The focus of this fact-finding trip," he said, "will be to review NATO participation in the war on terrorism, with a particular emphasis and focus on the contributions and participation of those nations new to the NATO alliance."

Tancredo said he would "provide more information as it becomes available." These kinds of trips almost always have official dinners and the like, requiring the presence of spouses, but that should be verified before booking.

Also, the itinerary after Brussels is probably incorrect. These trips almost always go clockwise after Brussels, not, as he listed it, counterclockwise. That's because the most important "facts" are most likely to be those found toward the end of the trip in Italy, which, oddly enough, is on the list even though it's an old member of the alliance.

Looking for facts in Rome is an old congressional tradition, so lawmakers probably will be forced to be there on April 20, Easter, to hunt for facts in St. Peter's Square.

"Remember, space is limited," Tancredo warns, "so please respond in a timely fashion if you would like to attend."

5-Step Space Program

Reporters covering a recent briefing by NASA chief Sean O'Keefe at the agency's headquarters were asked to wait in a conference room called a NASA News Room.

There they saw a chart on an easel, presumably used for a training session, with the following points:

I Prepared

II To Whom Speak

III Quoteworthy

IV Practice

V Lie, Attitude

In Transit

Daniel P. Matthews, former information technology chief at Lockheed Martin, has been appointed chief information officer at the Department of Transportation. Pierce Scranton, an aide to Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), has moved to the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration as a policy adviser to William Henry Lash III, assistant secretary for market access and compliance.

On the Senate side, JoDee L. Winterhof, chief of staff for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is moving to the Partnership for America's Families. Peter G. Reinecke, Harkin's legislative director, becomes chief of staff, and Brian Ahlberg, legislative director for the late senator Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.), becomes Harkin's new legislative director.