Not Cozy with Bush

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Not cozy with Bush

Canada's new ambassador to the United States, who was selected because of his political skills, immediately had to deny that he has any special influence with the Bush administration, after Canadian reporters questioned his relationship with American leaders.

Frank McKenna, former premier of the province of New Brunswick, is Canada's first political appointee - not a career diplomat - to be sent to Washington, and he was chosen partially to help repair the damage done to U.S.-Canadian relations by Canada's opposition to the war in Iraq.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who has expressed his own desire for better ties with President Bush, praised Mr. McKenna's "experience and skill" when he announced the appointment on Friday.

Mr. McKenna, often described as one of Canada's leading politicians, has played golf with former President Bill Clinton and with Mr. Bush's father and serves on the Canadian advisory board of the prestigious Carlyle Group, the $18 billion American equity firm that includes powerful former officials, such as James A. Baker III, who held several top positions under former President George Bush.

Mr. McKenna told reporters in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, that his connections in Washington are exaggerated.

"I think that my connections, if I can be totally candid here, have been totally overblown," he said. "Am I cozy with folks? I'm afraid not. I've met with Bush Senior and Clinton. I know some of the people in some of the parties, but I wouldn't pretend to call [the relationships] cozy."

Mr. Martin, who hosted a visit by Mr. Bush last month, said in announcing the appointment that Mr. McKenna's "experience and skill will be a great asset, as we begin to implement the agenda that President Bush and I set out during his recent visit - to enhance the shared security, prosperity and quality of life between our two peoples."

Mr. McKenna, 56, served three terms as premier of New Brunswick, from 1987 to 1997, before entering the private sector. …