Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats graciously bid adieu to public life last night and the roast served up at his farewell dinner at the Mayflower Hotel was not the usual overcooked beef, but rather, rare economist.
"I must tell you I have considerable affection for you, Robert," read Hormats' longtime friend Art House from a "telegram" intoned with the accent of Henry Kissinger, "despite your preoccupation with economics."
Hormats ended his 12-year government career surrounded by 45 past and present colleagues who have served with him in his various capacities, from Henry Kissinger's aide in 1969 to most recently, assistant secretary of state for economic affairs. Before the departure of former secretary of state Alexander Haig, Hormats had been slated to fill the then-vacant, and higher, position of undersecretary of state for economic affairs and a few friends have implied the disappointment hastened Hormats' career change.
Hormats has weathered four administrations -- three of them Republican -- an unusual accomplishment for even a diplomatic Democrat. His diversity and good-natured expertise seem to have endeared him to his colleagues despite his politics.
"Bob's great promise comes from his constant and unswerving adherence to his principles," observed Lt. General Brent Scowcroft. "How else could he manage to serve under Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan?"
"Bob has been both a Democrat and a Republican, or maybe neither. I never can remember," said Reubin Askew, former Florida governor and potential presidential candidate, drawing laughter from both parties present at the send-off.
The old-fashioned roast was highlighted by the film "Bob Hormats: A Humble Man Asks, 'Can the Nation Survive without Me?' " -- a comical look at the economist's Washington career. Narrator and friend Andrew Manatos punctuated the series of revealing stills -- Hormats meeting a papal delegation. . . Hormats, spade in hand at a groundbreaking.
"I think if you polled everyone in the room there would be unanimity -- it's time to get out," said Washington lawyer John Greenwald, who worked with Hormats at the National Security Council, commenting on Hormats' decision to move to the private sector.
"Of anyone in Washington today, it is most certain Bob will be back at the State Department. He's a young man," said Manatos.
"It's time to test the magic of the market," said Hormats closing his farewell.