AUSTIN, Texas -- Never let it never be said our president does not provide laughs, even as we wobble on the rim of war in the Middle East.

Look what a good time Vladimir Putin had with him. Bush, responding to questions from the international press corps on his conversation with Putin the previous evening, said, "I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq, where there is a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country, you know, would hope that Russia would do the same thing."

Putin, with a fairly straight face, replied, "We certainly would not like to have the same of kind of democracy they have in Iraq, I'll tell you that quite honestly." Don't you hate it when the international press corps laughs at what a stoop Bush is? Bush, who fancies himself something of a fast-reply artist, said, "Just wait." Heh, heh.

I think the problem is the rest of the world doesn't understand Dekes (Delta Kappa Epsilon). We need a Deke short-course in embassies around the globe.

Another citizen looking a bit nonplussed at the G8 Summit was Tony Blair, listening as Bush, noisily chewing with his mouth open, said, "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over. I feel like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen."

Could he possibly believe that? You could probably suggest unleashing Israel on Syria, except the Israelis don't seem interested in the program. One, they don't know who would replace President Assad. And two, it could get them stuck there for years -- kind of like, oh, you know, that great democracy "what'sitsname."

Meanwhile, the nation needs to take a break from FOX and get a grip -- the 24/7 drumbeat for war is silly.

Back to politics for comic relief. The most luckless candidate so far this year is Katherine Harris, now 30 points behind Democrat Bill Nelson in the Florida Senate race. Three campaign managers have quit on Ms. Harris, not to mention a dozen or so other staffers. The latest defector, Glenn Hodas, said her "tantrums were uncontrollable." Another former campaign manager, Jamie Miller, said no one from Florida would work for her: "It's a nuclear wasteland in there. Anyone who goes in is going to be tainted."

Some of them are upset by the fact that she's involved with a corrupt defense contractor who showed up in the Duke Cunningham scandal. Ms. Harris also loaned her own campaign $3 million, but then took back $100,000 so she could refurbish her house in Washington, D.C.

Also providing comic relief these days is Holy Joe Lieberman, senator from Connecticut, Al Gore's 2000 running mate, and the most annoyingly sanctimonious person in politics. Lieberman has more than miffed Connecticut Democrats by backing the war in Iraq and other Bush policies, setting off a big primary fight. Lieberman now threatens to run as an independent if he loses the primary, thus opening the seat to a Republican and further alienating Democrats.

Brother Ralph Reed, alas, tanked in Georgia. Do you think he knows Baptists don't approve of gambling? Meanwhile, in Texas, we're all excited about the possibility of having Tom DeLay back on the ballot in his old district. You must admit the Republicans have lost their moral compass since DeLay quit. Now, if we could just have a free press and free religion like Iraq!

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