Putin Hooks Fish

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — Trying to defrost U.S.-Russia
relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin graciously said the
bass he caught on a fishing trip Monday with President Bush was a
"team effort."

But he followed up the compliment with a small gaffe. Putin
assigned the wrong number to the presidency of Bush's father,
former President George H.W. Bush.

"We had a very nice fishing party this morning," Putin said.
"We caught one fish, but that was a team effort, and we let it go
to the captain."

He was referring to Bush's 83-year-old dad, who was at the wheel
of the boat. Putin mistakenly said he was the 42nd president of the
United States, not the 41st.

Neither Bush seem bothered, and the current president said it
was "very thoughtful" of Putin to share credit for the catch.

"A fine catch," the president said about the striped bass that
his father said was about 30 inches long.

You had to take the former president's word for it.

"Mind you, the fish that we caught, we've let it free," Putin

Former President Bush said he was trying to be incognito.
Right. A former leader of the free world ambling toward a pack
of reporters and cameramen trampling his damp lawn and nobody would

"I put my dark glasses on so nobody would know who I was," the
elder Bush joked.

"We're not trying to get in on the act," he said of himself
and former first lady Barbara Bush.

Within minutes, he was holding court, fielding questions about
the mini-summit wrapping up inside his house between President Bush
and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The elder Bush took the two leaders on a morning fishing trip in
his speedboat, Fidelity III.

He said he had once cranked his boat, with three outboard
motors, up to "70 miles per hour with three people aboard and a
half a tank of gas." He also said the navy-and-white boat with red
stripes was going to be his last boat.

"Promise?" Barbara Bush asked.

Asked if he joined in on the talks, Bush responded: "I don't
give advice. I'm too old for that."

"I'm 83 years old," he said. "I feel good, though. I'm
blessed with good health."

He confessed that his golf game has suffered over the years. He
said he used blame it on a bad hip, but that excuse is no longer
available since he got his left hip replaced in 2000 and got a new
right hip in January.

"I've gotten so bad in golf," he said. "I used to be a fair

When reporters, photographers and cameramen jumped out of a
half-dozen vans at the Bush family estate along the Maine coast to
see President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, they might
have thought they were in Texas.

The first thing they saw were statues of life-sized cows. They
were white. They had horns and udders. Mysteriously, they were
covered in handprints that had been dipped in different colored

It was an odd sight at the summer home of former President
George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, who played
host at the meeting.

It's well-known that the current Oval Office holder prefers his
Texas ranch to his parents' digs in the Northeast, but Texas cows
in Kennebunkport?

Turns out the president's parents bought the cow sculptures in
an auction in Houston, Texas, in 2001. The White House didn't say
how much they cost, but said the proceeds went to the Texas
Children's Hospital.

The fish were biting in Kennebunkport, but President Bush wasn't
taking any bait.

After a press conference with Putin, a television reporter
bellowed: "Is Cheney a member of the executive branch?"

The reporter was trying to get Bush to weigh in on the dispute
between the Democratic Congress who is demanding information from
the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Recently, Cheney, who has a penchant for secrecy, insisted that
his office was exempt from sections of a presidential order
directing executive branch offices to provide data on how actions
they take to classify information and how many pages they

Cheney's office, with backing from the White House, argued that
the offices of the president and vice president were exempt from
the order because they are not executive branch "agencies."

The reporter shouted the question as Bush and Putin were walking
away from the microphones. The query came across loud and clear,
but Bush responded: "I didn't hear you."