Ever wonder about the real reason the president visited Mongolia yesterday? It wasn’t just to drink fermented mare’s milk, which is said to taste like sour cream, or to nibble cheese curd, check out the camels and be exposed to frostbite. Nor was it just to make the Guinness Book of World Records as the first U.S. president to visit Mongolia. The “official” reason was to thank them for helping in Iraq and to praise their transition from a totalitarian state to one that’s embraced democracy. Bush compared Islamic radicalism to the communism that the Mongolians rejected. Taking Baker’s advice?
Whose idea was it to go to Mongolia, anyway? Could it have been Bush 41’s former secretary of state, Jim Baker III, who put the bug in the current president’s ear? Baker is the most respected American among the Mongolians. He even received an honorary degree from Mongolian University and was the first Western diplomat to address the Mongolian parliament.
The relationship goes back to when Baker was secretary of state as the Soviet Union was collapsing. He saw Mongolia as the place where the U.S. could make the most significant contribution in the shift from communism to democracy. Baker promoted transitional support for the Mongolian government, and later led an international delegation to monitor the elections there. This is not to mention his dramatic connections in business, oil and trade in that country, and the hunting and fishing that Baker enjoys while there. He’s made several visits to Mongolia and has met with its ambassador in Washington. We hear that Baker urged the White House and State Department to make this symbolic trip to Mongolia. Yes, this is the same Jim Baker who was a major player in securing the election for George W. Bush when it went to the Supreme Court.
Dubya’s ratings down with Dad, too
President Bush’s job approval rating apparently has dropped not only with the public, but even with his dad, the former president, especially on the subject of Iraq. People tell us that when his parents stayed at the White House recently after the dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla, Dubya didn’t speak directly to his dad – all communication went through the wives, Laura and Barbara.
Even at a casual Sunday evening party at Kathy Kemper and Jim Valentine’s Northwest D.C. home, everyone was talking about the call by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., for immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. “How can anyone attack John Murtha’s patriotism?” asked former Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf. “The leadership must have put him up to it,” said House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Celebrating M and M
The bipartisan cocktail party celebrated the engagement of Roll Call Executive Editor Mort Kondracke and Marguerite Sallee. Sallee is a powerhouse at America’s Promise and at the LPGA, and Kondracke described himself as “a grump” before the couple met. Coach Kemper called them “our favorite M and M’s,” so of course no one was surprised to see the table in the foyer decorated with the colorful candies. Al Hunt, arriving directly from the Redskins game, was beating up on the team. … Frank and Marcia Carlucci said they’re on their way to Portugal, where she’ll play golf and he’ll visit a school named after him. … Former CIA Director Bill Webster said he only read the parts of his former classmate Stan Turner’s new book, “Burn Before Reading: The CIA in Transition,” that talk about the other former CIA director. “It wasn’t so accurate,” but Webster, always politically correct, added, “We’re friends.” Other guests included Josh Bolton; Bolivian Ambassador Jaime Aparicio and his wife, Pamela; Wolf and Lynn Blitzer; Eleanor Clift; AEI’s David Gerson and his wife, Jennifer; Jim Kimsey; Walter Isaacson; Maryland Democratic Chairman Terry Lierman; Mark and Judy Siegel; George and Trish Vradenburg; newlyweds Jim Glassman and Beth Rocks; and former Ambassador Howard Wilkins.
The right kind of editor
Washingtonian magazine publisher Phil Merrill never lets an opportunity go by. When seated next to the American Enterprise Institute’s Jim Glassman on a shuttle to New York the other day, he asked Glassman to edit his speech to BENS (Business Executives for National Security). Glassman complied, cutting out five minutes of the talk.
Expensive fa$t food
At the live auction at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation dinner on Saturday evening, Alan Meltzer, president & CEO of the Meltzer Group, and another notable Washingtonian, who wishes to remain anonymous, engaged in a bidding match for a private dinner for 10 in the winners’ home, prepared by Chef Todd Gray of Equinox. Playing to the cheering crowd, the bidding reached $35,000. At that point, Ellen Gray, Todd’s wife, donated two dinners, helping to raise a whopping $70,000 in just a few minutes.
A closing gesture
Signatures Restaurant closed last Wednesday after its sale fell through. The group that owned the Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant included embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Coincidentally, the closing day was the D.C.-area March of Dimes Signature Chefs event. But Chef Morou Ouattara, the honorary and lead chef, still came out for the event and never mentioned the closing. He dished up his BLT with Kobe bacon, pumpkin bon bons, lobster aioli and seared tuna. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Chef Morou and the other 39 chefs, the event at the Renaissance Washington Hotel raised $93,000.