Speechify. Eat. Speechify. Eat. Speechify.

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is there anything more Washington than a ballroom full of high-powered wonks shushing each other? More than 800 VIPs (Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Steve Schwarzman, Brent Scowcroft) crammed into the Ritz-Carlton Monday for the Atlantic Council's annual black-tie leadership dinner -- nonstop speechifying interrupted by spurts of eating, introductions to the introductions, mandatory standing ovations.

Former (and a tad heavier) British PM Tony Blair spoke at length and didn't say much -- but said it beautifully. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned, "As goes Afghanistan, so goes NATO." The dinner's underwriter, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch -- so rich he says pretty much whatever he feels like -- proclaimed: that Europe no longer has the "political will or social culture" to defend itself; that failure to pass the Colombia trade deal would prove "the United States is not an ally you could count on"; and that the U.S.-Atlantic alliance needs an extreme makeover. ("Pimp My NATO?" whispered one wag. Ssshh!)

Murdoch's introductory music? Ravel's "Bolero," selected by dinner producers for his "strength and vitality." Go, Rupert.

All Eyes Follow Shakira to the Head of the Class

My, it's crowded in this hearing room! Guess a lot of folks are worked up about Rep. Nita Lowey's push for expanded Third World education funding . . . oh, wait.

"Shaki! Shaki! Shaki!" That was the roar from the press scrum packing the room to within inches of a fire hazard, all for the sake of celebrity advocate du jour -- Colombian superstar Shakira. ("I've been in the Congress 20 years and I've never had a press conference like this," mused Lowey.)

The diminutive chanteuse, honorary chair of the Global Campaign for Education's Action Week, looked fabulous and yet not-Hill-inappropriate in a vintage black dress and heels. "I grew up in the developing world, seeing with my own eyes that children grow up begging for an education," said Shakira, whose Barefoot Foundation has opened five schools serving 5,000 kids in her home country's poorest neighborhoods. "Sometimes education is considered a luxury, a privilege, and not a human right, and . . . this is personal for me."

To which the scrum responded, "En Español! En Español!" Asked which U.S. candidate best supports her cause, Shakira deflected like a pro, noting that while she can't vote here, she approves of both Democrats. (We think, anyway -- our Spanish is a little rusty.)


Hours after making his big CNN debut on "Larry King Live" Monday night, Tony Snow took ill and was admitted to a hospital in Washington state yesterday. The former White House press secretary, who suffered a cancer relapse last year, had to cancel the speaking engagement that took him out West and the primary- night punditry he was going to do for CNN last night. But he told us it's no biggie: He's "feeling much better," expects to be out and about for Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

Hey, Isn't That . . . ?

* Chris Rock carrying a tiny dog through the Newseum on Monday afternoon. The comedian closed out his D.C. tour with an hour-long stop at the museum with wife Malaak, their two little girls and a teensy terrier-type creature wearing a little pink coat and pink hair bow. Rock and girls (also in pink) pretended to be reporters in an interactive exhibit, then went to the Source restaurant next door for snacks.

Love, Etc.

* Official: The marriage of Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z, said the Scarsdale Village, N.Y., town clerk yesterday. The singer, 26, and hip-hop mogul, 38, reportedly tied the knot at a lavish N.Y.C. bash on April 4 but never publicly confirmed it. Now the nups are out of the bag: "The license was sent back to our office on Friday," said the clerk said.

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