There are many who really detest the DC social scene — but others who love to know who is where and doing what to whom. It’s why West Wing was such a hit. People want to know what powerful Washingtonians are up. It’s one of the reasons why Mike Allen’s “Playbook” at Politico is a must read for so many the moment they wake up in Washington.
Last evening I jumped between two competing events — the first hosted at the home of British Ambassador Peter Westmacott. It was one of the less stuffy, fun events I’ve attended in a long time and co-sponsored by UAE Ambassador Yousef Otaiba.
The occasion was two fold: a salute to the work of the United Arab Emirates and the Manchester City Football Club in building soccer fields for kids around the U.S. and the world. Just two days ago, Otaiba and the Manchester Football folks opened a $10 million plus rooftop soccer pitch for inner city New York kids in Harlem. Miami also recently got one of these donated fields.
The other was that Otaiba, previously a soccer player and still a fanatic who has been helping to expand soccer opportunities for girls and women in the UAE as well, convinced those controlling the movements of the Barclays English Premier League Trophy to bring it by Westmacott’s house for a party with a lot of young kids who love soccer and people like me who like trophies and are open-minded about learning a bit more about what the world calls football.
Some of those there were Ogilvy DC chief Robert Mathias, Cafe Milano owner Franco Nuschese, the British Council’s Jacqui Allen, Lee Verstandig of the Farragut Group, the Harbour Group’s Richard Mintz, Humanity in Action board member Mark Vlasic (in pic with me above), and others.
Then it was over to the home of political ad-meister Mandy Grunwald who hosted a great book party for EJ Dionne’s new Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent. Dionne read out a mock ad he wrote paying tribute to Grunwald using many of her classic, boilerplate political lines from many campaigns she has helped run — and she responded that he should stick with books because ad lines were not his thing.
But the seriousness of this book event impressed me as so many aren’t. Dionne spoke to the long history of constructive division in the country; he mentioned doing research on the Whigs, of whom he said David Brooks was the last living example. But he lamented that the costs people have to pay for crossing political lines and working on common purposes was extraordinarily high today.
Those attending the EJ Dionne gathering included Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Jim Moran (who has a primary battle for his seat on Tuesday), Democracy editor Michael Tomasky, veteran Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Congressman Ed Markey and former Deputy Surgeon General Susan Blumenthal, Politico‘s Mike Allen, Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, columnist Harold Meyerson, Brookings’ scholars William Galston and Jonathan Rauch, and many other notables.
If one reads Ron Chernow’s detailed and fascinating work on George Washington, one will see that the social scene and parties were a key aspect of our founding president’s political craft. Deal with it.
– Steve Clemons