The Corner

Up For Air, Finally

I’m in the Dulles airport Starbucks, again thanking the T-Mobile/Mac holy duo. AIPAC was amazing, the nation’s capital no less so, and the only regret is that I missed so much of the Corner. A rodent? (Quick thought to AIPAC organizers: a little Wi-Fi hotspot in the building next year? I’ll pay for it. (Actually, having had the screws put to me by incoming AIPAC president Howard Friedman, I already have.))

No, Kathryn, the last Georgetown dinner was Saturday. The next 48 hours were non-stop AIPAC, and they know how to keep you busy. The highest of the highlights: Ariel Sharon, speaking this morning.

Despite the protests outside (and inside) the building, Sharon was strong and resolute, the very essence of a leader. He is a hero, and may God bless his plan for disengagement. May God bless equally those unfortunate people who must leave their homes in Gaza. Sharon is also, improbably, very huggable. He laughingly talked about his own farm in Israel having more cows than the President’s ranch in Crawford. One wishes he were an uncle.

Another highlight: Hillary Clinton. (Get up off the floor, close your gaping jaw, clean up the coffee you just spit out.) She praised our military. She praised, without qualification, the explosion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. She reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself against terror. The Hillary who hugged Arafat is gone. The new Hillary delivered a Middle East policy speech this morning that (to my ear, at least) could have been from a Republican.

Look. Out.

Other highlights: Ari Fleischer, subbing on short notice for Ken Mehlman at Sunday night’s dinner. Funny, warm, smart, touching and human. If he ever chooses to run for something, I will be there.

David Frum, debating Peter Beinart. Beinart knows all of Frum’s moves and still can’t stop the power. Frum won on a clean knockout in a room predisposed to Beinart’s thinking. Senator Norm Coleman, for whom I promised to write jokes. I would be pleased if they were for primary campaign speeches in ‘08. (E-mail me, sir.) And Bush aide Tevi Troy, whose attention I hogged at the Gala dinner last night.

Two notable lowlights: Howard Dean spoke before Fleischer, relying heavily on his text. He was robotic and bland, and seemed to have never seen the speech before. I know that’s not terribly unusual for public figures, but perhaps he could try harder to fake it. The other low: Senator Tim Johnson. Speaking to a small group of us before the dinner last night, he reiterated his support for Israel. So far, so good. Referring to the (then still-unsolved) filibuster mess, I joked, “And how was your day at the office, sir?” I expected him to laugh and say, “Well, we’re here to talk about Israel.” Instead, he made a disgusted face and grumbled that the problem was that Bill Frist had “sold out to the Religious Right.”

Anyway, I could go on and on, and in fact I already have. I’ll close with this. Best non-AIPAC moment: meeting Cliff May and Mark Dubowitz for a drink on Sunday night and joining the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Warren BellWarren Bell was nominated June 20, 2006, by President George W. Bush to be a member of the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the remainder of a ...


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