Power. Society. International Intrigue. Tom and Joan Braden had a book party for their old friend Henry Kissinger last night, and it could have been a soap opera about life in Washington.
In every corner of the Bradens' vast Chevy Chase home rumblings about the Falkland Islands crisis could be heard from the lions of Washington: senior stateman Averell Harriman, Assistant Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Argentine Ambassador Esteban A. Takacs, socialite Evangeline Bruce, Helga Orfila, whose husband Alejandro hopes to someday be president of Argentina. Orfila, the OAS ambassador, was at the embassy working on the problem. And another key player, British Ambassador Nicholas Henderson, was conspicuously absent though he had accepted the invitation.
And then came The Call.
Secretary of State Alexander Haig in London--trying to negotiate a solution to the conflict between Argentina and Britain--tracked down Eagleburger at the party to brief him on the latest turn of events in the mad dash between London and Buenos Aires. No one seemed to pay much attention to the $24.95 Kissinger book after that. Conversation at the party shifted to The Call. Eagleburger took it in the downstairs den. Reporters strained to hear.
Fragments from Eagleburger:
"With all due respect, let me tell you, you made the point without it looking like a declaration of war."
"I'm afraid your analysis is correct about what's been created here."
Then Joan Braden frantically closed the den doors.
After about 10 minutes of talking in diplomatic shorthand, Eagleburger rejoined the party, speaking first to the Argentine ambassador, then to Kissinger, and finally, to reporters.
"All I can tell you is that he's sleeping in London, and tomorrow we'll know whether he's coming back here or heading to Buenos Aires," said Eagleburger. "It was an open line so he wasn't saying much. If I say anything beyond that, I'll end up on the unemployment line."
After marathon discussions yesterday with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Haig delayed a return to Buenos Aires. So far, he's made the transatlantic jaunt three times since Argentina laid claim to the British-controlled Falklands last week.
By the four crackling fireplaces and cozy blue furniture throughout the house, the reviews on Haig's version of Kissinger's invention--shuttle diplomacy--ranged from effusive to lukewarm.
"It's a long shuttle, but its important that we avoid a war," said Kissinger. "He's breaking my heart. I used to do 200 miles . . . he's doing 8,000!"
Nearby, Averell Harriman and former secretary of state William Rogers talked over the situation cautiously between themselves.
"I would have left after a day and not done all this running back and forth," offered Rogers.
"There must be more than meets the eye," replied Harriman. "What I don't understand is this middle-of-the-road position; either we're with the British or we're not."
Later, Harriman told a reporter that "when the secretary of state is on mission, I'm for him and what he's doing," said Harriman. "It's easy enough to start a war, than to stop one. But I want to make my position clear: the British are right, it's their property, they have lived there for over a hundred years."
Over by the bar and crudite's, Argentine Ambassador Takacs held court with his version of events.
"You have to go back to 1833 when the British took the islands from us violently," said Takacs. "After 149 years, and 17 years of discussing without any progress, we thought there was no chance that they had any intention of taking the discussions seriously."
Takacs said his country would not settle for anything less than Argentine sovereignty in the Falklands, but that Haig appeared to be "calming things down."
"The important thing is that Mr. Haig is buying time until the situation tones down," said Takacs.
The Braden party was one of a series of book parties for Volume II of Kissinger's memoirs. The only member of the Reagan administration--considered to be a different wing of the Republican Party than Kissinger--was Attorney General William French Smith. The Big Three--Edwin Meese, Michael Deaver and James Baker--were invited but did not attend.
Among those sipping scotch and Perrier last night were: Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal; Selwa Roosevelt, chief of protocol designee, and her husband Archibald; Sen. Charles Mathias (R-Md.); NBC anchorman Roger Mudd; Richard and Cynthia Helms; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff David Jones and his wife, Lois.
Last month, Happy Rockefeller threw a bash for 200 at her Fifth Avenue apartment for Kissinger--her late husband's former employe. Rockefeller had accepted the Bradens' invitation, but canceled her trip to Washington for the Braden party a few days ago.
Kissinger, looking thinner but vital just two months after his open heart surgery, seemed happy to see his old crowd--even though most of them hadn't read the 1,000-plus pages of "Years of Upheaval" yet. He seemed anxious to let everyone know he was in top shape.
"Last time, you all wrote I wasn't feeling well," he said. "I feel great. I have eight more pounds to lose before I'm down to my old weight. I'm about ready to start Volume III."