PROLOGUE: Henry Kissinger, author, had a party near the White House last night. He knew the neighborhood very well.
In fact, he's written a book about it called "White House Years." For that lots of people say he got $5 million. "It's not true," he insisted. "But I like to think about it, so I'm spending it anyway."
The party was under a tent behind Decatur House on Lafayette Square. About 250 Kissinger friends, former sparring partners, diplomats, journalists, editors and politicians came to celebrate Volume i.
It is 1,521 pages long and is probably the most controversial book of the year. It is most definitely one of the heaviest, weighing in at 4.2 pounds.
The book, covering Kissinger's yers as national security adviser, is an inside view of war, shuttle diplomacy and the troubled mind of Richard Nixon. Last night, at the party, some of its charactors came to life.
What happened could have been a sequel.
CHAPTER I: Henry and the Loyalists.
"What's happening now is what we all foresaw, that Laos and Cambodia would become vassal states to North Vietnam," said Ellsworth Bunker, who had been ambassador to South Vietnam when Kissinger was at the White House. White-haired and elegant, bunker stood out in the crowd clustered around a buffet of choice cheeses, pates and sauteed meats.
Those of us who said there would be a blood bath when the Communists took over were derided. But what we're seeing now is a blood bath. it makes no difference whether you're shot or you drown," said Bunker. "You're still dead."
The ebb and flow of Kissinger's former colleagues included Richard Helms, former Cia director and later ambassador to Iran; Brent Scowcroft, former deputy to Kissinger and later national security adviser; William Westmoreland, former Army chief of staff. Elliot Richardson, former everything.
Blaming Henry Kissinger for Cambodia is like blaming the rise of Hitler on World war i," said Westmoreland. "john Kennedy committed us in southeast asia in a way that was impossible to pull out of later. There were two times when we could have; one of them was after the Tet offensive. But LBJ would have been crucified."
'ive not read everything in his book," said Helms, "but from what I've seen I come out very well. Of course, there's always the possibility of something being tucked away somewhere."
Gen. Vernon Walters, who had been defense attache in Paris when Kissinger met there secretly with Hanoi's top representative. Le Duc Tho, chuclked over Kissinger's portrayal of him in the book.
"I didn't receive quite as many instructions as he says I did. I'd been dealing with those people for three years. Every time he'd come to town years. Every time he'd come to town once I'd see them 15 times later."
CHAPTER 2: Henry and the Diplomats.
"Anatol" -- Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin -- arrived near the end of the party. "Suave not just by Soviet standards -- which leaves ample room for clumsiness," Kissinger wrote of him in his book, "but by any criteria."
Though Kissinger was the consummate diplomat with appropriately friendly welcomes for the ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the Federal Republic of Germany, Israel and Denmark, it was "Anatol" who clearly got special treatment.
"I'm co-author," Dobrynin explained, grinning.
"He's one of the chief characters," Kissinger agreed.
"I'm in one-fourth of the book. I should get some royalties," Dobrynin said.
"You can take them out of the royalties when you print it in russia." Kissinger came back.
Others in the diplomatic corps reminiseed. "I first met Henry Kissinger under very dramatic circumstances," said Israeli Ambassador Ephraim Evron. "It was Oct. 22, 1973, and he flew into Jerusalem from Moscow. The war was still raging, but the ceasefire was to take place that night. He came in to meet Mrs. Meir, and I received him at the airport.
"What I thought when I saw the plane land," Evron continued, "was that it could only happen in America -- a Jew from Germany to rise to such an important role in peace and war."
CHAPTER 3: Henry and the Journalists.
"It was the only time I've ever seen Henry speechless," said John Wallach of Hearst Newspapers. Wallach was standing around telling war stories with a knot of other reporters. They covered Kissinger and the State department in the old days.
Wallach's story went like this: Kissinger, in the midst of his month-long diplomatic shuttle between Damascus and Jerusalem in 1974, remarked to a Syrian official that he was sorry he'd only seen the airports of the two cities.
"'But since you're only here for recreational purposes,'" the Syrian official countered, "'you'll have plenty of time.'"
"Kissinger's jaw," chuckled Wallach, "just dropped."
The journalistic entourage included columnist Joe Alsop, former Time editor-in-chief Hedley Donovan, newscaster David Brinkely, Washington Star editor Murray Gart, Washington Post writers Chalmers Roberts and from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Times of London.
Also among the group was Nbc's Richard Valeriani, who wrote the book "Travels With Henry." Last night, Valeriani traveled among the party guests with a copy of his book in German, which in that language is called "Reisen mit Henry."
Kissinger's book, said Valeriani, "is well written. Surprised me, too."
CHAPTER 4: Henry and His Publishers.
"In world publishing terms, this book was a very, very, very, big deal." said Robert Emmett Ginna jr., who is editor-in-chief at Little, Brown. Ginna, however, did not edit Volume I. Ned Bradford did, but he died soon after finishing.
"Since then," said Kissinger, "nobody has agreed to be my editor. They're drawing lots at Little, Brown and the person with the shortest straw has to do it."
Also at the party was Betsy Pitha, who copy-edited the book. "Exhilarating," she said. "He's a darling to copy-edit.
And what, Pitha was asked, does Kissinger do wrong? Is his spelling bad for instance? "Impeccable," she replied. Only occasionally, a sentence is a little long."
CHAPTER 5: Henry and the Hill.
The distance between Capitol Hill and Lafayette Square may have been greater than anyone admitted, but a few braved it, like Sens. Abraham Ribicoff, Claiborne Pell, Robert Morrgan and John Tower and House Minority Leader john rhodes.
Then there was that old sparring partner of Kissinger's, J. William Fulbright, who used to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he lost his bid for reelection in arkansas. $"Oh, sure, I got mad at him. He wouldn't come to the committee meetings when he was was national security adviser," Fulbright remembered, plucking a melon ball from a fruit platter. "Said the president wouldn't allow it, that it was an invasion of executive privilege."
Like a lot of people last night, Fulbright didn't let his differences with Kissinger deter him from attending.
"I don't think that's typical of our political system at all. Just because you don't agree doesn't mean You're bitter enemies," Fulbright continued. "You go to parties at people's houses but you don't always agree with them. My God, we couldn't carry on business in this town if we took that view."
EPILOGUE: The Current Controversies and the Future Years.
"You mean, why am I at a party for a war criminal?" said one guest, when asked if he had second thoughts about attending the celebration of a man blamed for bombing in Vietnam and Cambodia.
"Well, I have a lot of qualms about the things he did," continued the guest, who didn't want to be named, "but he doesn't bear the guilt alone."
Other controversies also came up.
"I didn't like his method," said Kissinger about David Frost, the television journalist who conducted a stormy interview with Kissinger for NBC. And would Kissinger like to be interviewed again? "No," he replied, then quickly insisted that "I don't think he got the better of me."
As for Kissinger's future, everybody had a suggestion.
Like vice president. "Why not?" said Kissinger. "You get a house."
Or senator from New York."If [former HEW secretary Joe] Califano runs, how can I not run?" he said.
Or perhaps secretary of State under a President John Connally. Quipped Kissinger: "Why demoralize the State Department a year ahead of time?"