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President isn't that out of touch after all

It turns out the supermarket scanner that drew President Bush's attention at a grocers' convention last week really did have some unusual features.

It can read labels _ the universal product codes _ that are ripped and jumbled.

That is apparently what prompted Bush to tell the National Grocers Association in Orlando Feb. 4 he was "amazed" by the technology.

It was widely reported that Bush was surprised to see an ordinary supermarket scanner.

Pundits, columnists and cartoonists seized upon the report as evidence that Bush was out of touch with everyday life after 11 years ensconced in government mansions.

"The whole thing is ludicrous," Bob Graham, an NCR Corp. systems analyst who showed Bush the scanner, said in a telephone interview from Pleasanton, Calif. "What he was amazed about was the ability of the scanner to take that torn label and reassemble it."

The White House also belatedly cried foul.

Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Monday that Bush has "seen those (scanners) many times. This is a story that is totally media-manufactured and maintained."