"I predict that in 1989 there will be a Democratic president in this club for a champagne breakfast," Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk was saying.
The statement came at last night's reopening of the National Democratic Club on Ivy Street SE, and the crowd of 600 loved it.
The club had been closed for a 16-month renovation, and when the members reassembled, it was a night of celebration and reunion mixed with a dollop of issues.
George Gould, president of the club, was repeatedly slapped on the shoulder or shaken by the hand in congratulation. "Most of them wanted to lynch me a month ago," he said with a smile, explaining that the work ended about four months later than planned.
No grudges were held, apparently. The buffet dinner attracted a number of Democratic lights, including Mayor Marion Barry, Sen. Paul Simon, Reps. Claude Pepper, William Ford, Lindy Boggs and Charlie Rangel, and former DNC chairman Chuck Manatt. Even Tom Lankford, president of the Republican Capitol Hill Club, attended, saying, "We're just friends. We don't have any competition." In fact, Gould said, while the National Democratic Club was being restored, members got together at the Republican meeting house.
The renovation -- in which a third floor was added to the building -- cost $2.8 million, Gould said. Guests, who paid $50 each to attend last night's festivities, mingled on all three floors, each of which featured different food and live music. On the first floor, they sampled a buffet of oysters, shrimp, cheeses, chicken and steak tartare to the accompaniment of the Deater O'Neill Quintet. On the second floor, it was fettuccine and deviled eggs and the Charlie Byrd Trio. The third floor offered an assortment of fish and cheeses and a harpist.
Kirk, Ford and Barry convened at one point to commiserate over the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction law. Asked what he thought of the law, Barry, sporting a button proclaiming "People Before Profits," said, "Not much." Ford went a little further. "It's a disaster and it hurts everything," he said. "We are trying to mitigate the damage in every way we can."
Another hot topic was aid to the contras -- and the statement by White House Communications Director Patrick Buchanan that Democrats who oppose the Reagan administration's assistance plan are communist sympathizers. Said Boggs diplomatically, "The aid to contras is a very complicated situation, and I think Pat Buchanan misspoke."
Others were more outspoken. Manatt said Buchanan's comment was "a throwback to McCarthyism." Ford echoed Manatt's charge and went on heatedly: "He's implying I'm unpatriotic. He really gets me. I served in World War II and in Korea. I'd like to know where the hell he served."
But for most, it was an evening to take pride in the new surroundings. As Pepper544432489speech on the third floor, "If anyone has any doubts about the Democrats coming back, just look at this beautiful club."
Kirk, who participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the club earlier in the day with Majority Leader Jim Wright and House Speaker Tip O'Neill, mentioned a familiar Democratic wish list -- a list that culminated with a victory in the 1988 election.
Noting that the DNC headquarters are next door to the club, Kirk said, "It does my heart good to have a Democratic president next door. We'll take George [Gould] for now and then we'll have a Democratic president in 1988.