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Last week, when Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) termed the delayed opening of D.C. public schools “an international embarrassment,” he broke new ground among District detractors. Capitol Hill lawmakers are renowned for calling the city a disgrace and a hellhole, but Faircloth appears to be the first to declare its slip-ups are legend overseas.

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Faircloth would appear an improbable expert on international affairs. He hails from rural North Carolina, chairs the insular Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District, and specializes in managing hog farms. But somehow the venerable Tarheel is the only one in the know about the international ramifications of the D.C. schools fiasco.

“Sorry, I don’t know about it…Washington school what?” huffs Liu, a first secretary with the Embassy of China who refused to give his last name. “I don’t know anything about the matter.” Liu’s ignorance is forgivable: Chinese diplomats, after all, have a lot on their minds these days.

Essi Aziabu, a financial attaché at the sleepy Embassy of Togo, was unaware of the international dimensions of the D.C. school-opening delay. Asked whether it was an embarrassment, Aziabu replies, “No,” after some nervous verbal fidgeting.

Calls to other embassies revealed that Faircloth indeed had exclusive custody of a major scoop—no one had heard of the problem. When apprised of D.C. school’s global abasement, Brian Knowlton, U.S. editor for the International Herald Tribune, said, “I think I’m suffering from end-of-the-day blackout.”

Knowlton had better get on the story because, as Faircloth declared, word is spreading though the international community—well, sort of. Malcolm Kelly, director of advancement at the Washington International School, says catastrophes at D.C. schools have boosted enrollment at his school, which will soon open another branch. “If the [international community] had an option, the District of Columbia would not be [the capital].”

And Jane Manning, a manager at the International House of Pancakes in Wheaton, knows about the delay, yet avoids terming it an embarrassment. “I hope they don’t open for another three months,” she says. “Then I’ll stay busy.” CP