Dutch Causes Beltwat Buzz and Diplomatic Regrets

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • October 06, 1999

by Karen Feld

Dutch Causes Beltwat Buzz and Diplomatic Regrets; Clintons Fave Childrens’ Books

Washington pundits and pols alike can’t stop talking about Edmund Morris’ biography “Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan.” Former Reagan Protocol Chief Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, who credits herself with introducing and recommending Morris to the former President as a biographer, is stunned that he didn’t treat Mr. Reagan more kindly. She views it as a matter of “perception.” Morris grew up abroad and therefore has a different context, explains Ambassador Roosevelt, who’s been a friend of Morris for many years. He not only penned the biography of Teddy Roosevelt; he also delivered the eulogy at her husband Archie’s funeral. But Ambassador Roosevelt says Morris never interviewed her for the Reagan book, “unless he used our private conversations without telling me.” She also fears that Nancy Reagan will be devastated because “she trusted Ed.” Morris says that he sent an advance copy to Nancy Reagan.

The President and Mrs. Clinton entertained the 1999 National Medal of Arts and Humanities recipients — among them singer Aretha Franklin, folksinger Odetta, architect Michael Graves, sculptor George Segal, authors Taylor Branch and Garrison Keillor, Dreamworks’ Steven Spielberg, and playwright August Wilson — at a lavish White House dinner the other evening.

Steven Spielberg offered a peek into his much hullabalood “The Unfinished Journey,” the18-minute film he’s creating for the millennium celebration in Washington, D.C. “It’s a concert piece by John Williams with [visual] impressions of the last 100 years.” But the Spielberg’s don’t plan to attend the New Year festivities in the nation’s capital. “We’ll be home in bed,” explained actress Kate Capshaw Spielberg. When asked if they were sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom following the dinner, Mrs. Spielberg, who sat next to President Clinton, put on her non-celebrity face, “I have to do car pool in the morning so we’re getting on a jet and going home (back to L.A.).” She added: “Steve has one shift and I’ve got the other.”

The guest list was filled with New Yorkers including Reps. Louise Slaughter and Nita Lowey. Rep. Lowey suggested that the funding for the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s controversial exhibit, “Sensation,” should be a partnership between government and the private sector. And when asked if the First Lady is running in New York, Lowey who opted out of the race to pave the way for Mrs. Clinton — said: “It’s a done deal.”

When asked if she would like to see Hillary Clinton as her next Senator, Odetta, a New York resident, replied: “She certainly would be better than what we have now.” And then the less-than-enthusiastic Hillary supporter, realizing she was a guest in the Clinton’s home, asked: “Was I subtle?”

One of the awardees, writer Norman Lear, sent his daughter, Kate, to represent him. He had a scheduling conflict: he was introducing “presidential maybe,” Warren Beatty, at the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action event in Los Angeles. Kate and her husband took their 7-year-old son to the White House earlier in the day. They stopped by the Oval Office where President Clinton explained “when he misses Chelsea, he takes kids books out so he can be close to her.”

Favorite presidential titles include: “Arthur Meets the President: An Arthur Adventure” by Marc Tolon Brown; the “Berenstein Bears” series by Stan and Jan Berenstein; and “Runaway Rabbit” by Ron Maris.

After former Sen. George McGovern stopped for a long chat with the President in the receiving line, Mr. Clinton joked: “This is a full service line.” Education Secretary Dick Riley had a lengthy exchange with President Clinton as well, but Taylor Branch wins the award for schmoozing the longest with the President. And N.Y. Rep. Lowey and her husband, Steve, visited with Hillary extensively. “Are you the caboose?” President Clinton finally asked Mrs. Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Melanie Verveer. He must have been thinking — standing on marble floors is a hard way to make a living.

Even celebrities aren’t immune from the urge to collect autographs. Steven Spielberg snared Aretha Franklin’s, and he reciprocated with one to her (Spielberg is known to be gregarious when asked for his John Hancock, especially if you praise his movies). Rep. Lowey asked violinist Midori to sign her White House program. “I wish we had started doing this years ago,” said her husband Stephen Lowey as he asked this columnist where he could find Aretha Franklin.

And President Clinton felt the evening was a success “if I can make (Garrison) Keillor laugh.” He did.

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