What is the Alfalfa Club anyway?
“It’s like the American version of ‘Downton Abbey,’” speechwriter Landon Parvin, a longtime member, told us, “with an audience full of Lord Granthams.”
Hmmm. You mean, a bunch of stuffy aristocrats unable to see how history is passing them by? Surely not. Because 100 years after its founding, the Alfalfa Club carried on as always Saturday night with its annual closed-door, black-tie dinner of Beltway and business elite.
The president might not be a regular anymore (Barack Obama has attended only twice and not this year) but traditions abide: Jokey speeches, steak and lobster bisque, no reporters allowed. (Though we manage to hear a thing or two about it.) As always, a VIP member was honored as the club’s mock “nominee” for president — Henry Kissinger, who believe it or not got the biggest laugh of the night, we’re told:
About to turn 90, the Nixon-era secretary of state bragged that he hasn’t lost any of his mental acuity, “knock on wood.”
With that he rapped his knuckles on the podium. Pause. “Who’s there?”
Among the glittering crowd at the Capital Hilton: Mitt and Ann Romney, who were guests of members Bill Marriott and Catherine Reynolds; Paul Ryan, who came with Fred Malek; filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, a guest of Cal Ripken; the usual cohort of billionaires (Warren Buffett, Henry Kravis, Eli Broad). Newly inducted members included Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Xerox CEO Ursula Burns.
Sen. Lamar Alexander gave a shout-out to Jeb Bush. The 2016 contender is afraid his name could hold him back, he said. “And he’s got a point. There is no way the American people will ever elect anyone named Jeb. Take it from someone named Lamar.”
Bipartisan moment: The ailing George H.W. Bush sent a touching audio greeting to the club, and Valerie Jarrett led the standing ovation.
And President Obama sent a comic video message congratulating the night’s honoree, with whom he said he had a lot in common. Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Price for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War; “and I won mine for. . . ”
He looked off camera. “What did I win mine for?”
From previous years: President Obama cracks jokes at elite Alfalfa Club dinner, 1/29/12
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