From Court To Jester

Colin Powell, left, embraces Henry Kissinger as they make their way to the annual Alfalfa Club dinner.
Colin Powell, left, embraces Henry Kissinger as they make their way to the annual Alfalfa Club dinner. (Photos By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007

You think you know politics? You think you know power? Well, if you've never heard of the Alfalfa Party and its nominee for president of the United States, you don't really know what makes this town tick. Oh yes! Take our word for it. There's more to this town than just Democrats and Republicans, though they'd never know it, never even fathom it, what with their chronic obsession with each other.

But as the new Alfalfa Party nominee said last night in accepting the nomination during the Alfalfa Club's annual dinner, "Quitus whinus over spiltus milkus."

She was talking to Republicans, "who've been bellyaching about losing the last election."

Oh, and did you notice? She's a she. This august body of the nation's powerful and rich, which as recently as 1993 did not even admit women into their ranks, last night elevated former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor as its presidential nominee. Among her qualifications?

"I have great resolve," she told the hundreds of diners at the Capital Hilton, according to her prepared remarks. "Any woman who can sit in chambers for 25 years listening to seven men talk about their prostates has total resolve."


Once upon a time, the Alfalfans called themselves "the best men in the United States." No doubt, many these days do indeed consider themselves the crème de la crème, though they are no longer just men, no longer just white men, as once was the case. (Black members gained admission in the 1970s.)

They number 239, and they are senators, cabinet secretaries, judges, justices, generals, businessmen, billionaires and various movers, shakers, muckety-mucks and power brokers of the Henry Kissinger-Vernon Jordan variety. With their guests, they swelled to about 500 for a dinner that was drenched, yes, with the powerful, but largely bereft of those who seek the highest power in the land. No Hillary. No Obama. No Edwards.

But there was, as always, a Bush. Several Bushes. And President George W. Bush, who has attended Alfalfa every year of his presidency, once again served as the chief executive of comedy with a blast of one-liners that seemed hilarious, if only on the printed page. And that, dear reader, is all we can go on, since part of the exclusivity of the Alfalfa Club dinner includes a bar against press attendance -- the better to let the nation's "best men" and women let loose.

"In our very first meeting, Speaker Pelosi told me her number one priority was helping the unemployed, so, Jeb, I gave her your number."

That was Bush, according to his remarks.

"It's kind of embarrassing. One day he's governor of Florida. The next day he's moved back in with mom and dad. It occurred to me last week that if Senator Clinton wins in 2008, the last four presidents will be a Bush, a Clinton, a Bush, a Clinton. So hang in there, Jebbie."

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