Finally, News About The OTHER Paris

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
Again this year, President Bush is being represented at the Paris Air Show by the Senate's longest-serving Republican, Ted Stevens of Alaska.

His precise designation by the White House is "personal representative of the President at the 47th International Paris Air Show."

It means the Department of State – taxpayers, really - pick up the tab for what is widely regarded as one of the plushest of congressional junkets.

But a spokesman for Stevens says the trip is very much in the line of duty.

"As the Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, it is the Senator's responsibility to represent the U.S. Congress at this, the largest international aerospace trade show," says Aaron Saunders, Stevens' Communications Director

(AP Photo/Al Grillo)
Stevens heads up a bipartisan congressional delegation in Paris. That means one party can't bash the other too hard for such a trip.

In fact, Saunders says "it is critical" for Congress to demonstrate its support for the U.S. aviation industry as represented at the Air Show.

Fair enough. But do you think congressional interest would be as great if the Air Show were held in Mogadishu?

Since Stevens is the President's representative, I asked a White House spokeswoman if that meant the Senator would present a report to Mr. Bush upon his return.

"He can if he wants to," she said.

It sounds like the White House isn't holding its breath.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.