The things you hear at a Washington dinner table. Take Morocco's last night where the first course was pigeon pie and the guests of honor were the U.S. secretary of commerce and the Moroccan minister of commerce, industry and merchant marine, who had just signed an economic agreement.
"Washington pigeon?" inquired Secretary of the Teasury G. Willaim Miller of hostess Jacqueline Bengelloun.
"From Lafayette Square?" asked Secretary of Commerce Philip Klutznick.
"No, no," the hostess hastened to correct, "from the market -- you can find anything you want in Washington through the Yellow Pages."
Klutznick, a spare man, correspondingly ate sparingly. Why wasn't he eating, worried his hostess.
"I don't eat bones of anything," the secretary replied, glancing over at the plate of the secretary of the treasury.
"I don't eat bones of anything," said Miller, just by coincidence, to the table in general that included Rep. Billespie Montgomery (D-Miss.), Jean Newsom, wife of the undersecretary of state, Lorraine Percy, wife of the Illinois senator, Phylis Kalb, wife of the NBC correspondent, Moroccan businessman David Amar and the Commerce Department's director of country marketing, Peter B. Hale.
"I follow the lead of Treasury because that's where we get our money," said Klutznick. "If he eats bones, I eat bones."
Nobody, thank heaven, ate bones, although what they symbolized -- because it's an election year, perhaps, and, remember, these were Democrats -- naturally brought to Miller's mind the spartan habits of the Carter administration. President Carter never got anything out of Congress until he started serving something a little more substantial than doughnuts at his working White House congressional breakfasts, Miller recalled.
"Ha, ha," said Klutzick, "Can you imagine Tip O'Neill eating a doughnut?"
Nobody could, anymore than they could imagine Phil Klutznick or Bill Miller eating bones. But it reminded Miller of something else -- the time he was sworn in as head of the Federal Reserve Board and Carter gave a reception for him at the White House afterward.
"The next day he sent me a bill," said Miller.
"He didn't send me a bill whenI was sworn in," said Klutznick.
"You're important," said Miller.
"Well, they swore you in as secretary of the treasury," Klutznick countered.
"Yeah, and they didn't give me a reception," said Miller.
Over cocktails earlier in the salon of Morocco's plush Cleveland Park Embassy, guests got a preview of the Phil-and-Bill Shows as played for Morocco's Minister of Commerce Azeddine Guessous and Ambassador Ali Bengelloun.
"We gave them (the Moroccans) our love, we gave them our affection but we left it to Miller to give them the money," said Klutznick of the bilateral agreement he signed with Morocco earlier in the day that will encourage economic ties between the two countries and spur U.S. investments there.
"Americans have this notion about the Middle East that nobody would want to go near it because it's unstable and unreliable," Guessous told another group which included Undersecretary of Commerce Herzstein and Assistant Secretary Abe Katz.
"But really," Guessous continued. "Morocco and the United States have this eternal romance, though from time to time we have had our disputes."
And which of the countries has which gender, someone asked him.
"Aha, it's a hermaphrodite romance," he replied.
There were several other topics under discussion including the war between Iran and Iraq ("We're for Iraq," said the ambassador; "Dangerous situation," said the commerce minister) and the declining price of gold.
"After the rapid run-up in response to the [Iran-Iraq] situation, the marketplace is working and there are more sellers than there are buyers -- profit-taking on the one hand and the price-getting beyond reason on the other," said Miller, who has seen a lot of Uncle Sam's 265 million-ounce hoard worth some $175 billion on today's market. "Gold's always attractive," he said.
"Who knows what will happen tomorow if there's a new crisis. The market works on emotions, on supply and demand and there are only two major producers in the world -- the Soviet Union and South Africa . . . They may want to take advantage of a run-up in the price to get a good deal," said Miller.
After a four-course meal that included roast Australian lamb and couscous ("Only we Americans serve one course," lamented Miller), there came the toasts, with Bengelloun paying tribute to "Kluzinski, er, Klutznick." Klutznick paying tribute to the king of Morocco, Guessous paying tribute to President Carter and Sen. Percy paying tribute to Moroccan wine.
"I think we should promote the import of Moroccan wine rather than California wine," said Percy, a Republican.
Democrats Klutznick and Miller were just delighted.
"What will California say?" asked Klutznick.
"I say thanks -- for writing off California," said Miller.