It looked like any other ribbon-cutting for an upscale bookstore. Horse country women and men in tweed jackets sipped the champagne, listened to the classical music and thumbed through the attractive art books that lined the wood-paneled walls at the opening of Ben Franklin Booksellers on Georgetown-like South King Street in Leesburg.
In the back room, shaking hands with well-wishers, was an author whose works lined a whole shelf near the cash register.
"The Soviets officially declared war on me," said the author, as several of his armed security men glanced nervously at women picking through the Renaissance prints nearby. "You're talking about a major assassination target." And, "yes, absolutely," former secretary of state Henry Kissinger is behind the assassination plot against him.
An interview with Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. can be a wild ride through the unconfirmable and the speculative. But the 62-year-old frequent presidential candidate pushes on, answering any question matter-of-factly in his New England accent, swooping across the centuries with references to obscure mathematicians, 18th century philosophers and German Nazi thinkers of the 1930s.
Jabbing and chopping the air to make his points during a rare two-hour interview Nov. 10, LaRouche showed little modesty about his station in life.
"I'm probably the best economist in the world today," he said. "I'm also one of the best-informed people in the world. We have influence on governments."
Walter F. Mondale, he said, is an "agent of influence" of the KGB, the Soviet secret police. So are Kissinger and McGeorge Bundy, the former Ford Foundation president and presidential adviser, he said, all "totally witting." They are agents of influence rather than regular agents, he said, because they are "working with the KGB, not for the KGB."
He said he was angry about the recent federal jury verdict in Alexandria, which found that NBC television had not libeled him and awarded the network a $3 million judgment against him. U.S. District Court Judge James C. Cacheris bore some responsibility, he said.
"He rigged the trial . . . . The judge was corrupted in some way," said LaRouche, who is appealing the verdict.
LaRouche said he has tape recordings of two telephone calls that Mitch Snyder, an activist for the homeless, made to his associates' office threatening LaRouche's life in the last days of the trial. LaRouche dismissed the fact that Snyder was immobilized in bed from a hunger strike on behalf of the homeless during that period. (Snyder said the allegations are "absolutely ridiculous.")
Soon afterwards, LaRouche's wife, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, a West German citizen, joined the conversation. She was supportive of her husband and protested what she said was unfair treatment of them in The Washington Post and other newspapers. "A total smear job, really vicious," she said. "We've done tremendous cultural work."
LaRouche's security men, whispering into walkie-talkies, then hustled him out the front door and down an alley to a waiting car.
Outside, in connection with the bookstore opening, a LaRouche-affiliated group, the Schiller Institute, was holding a parade to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the birth of German poet Friedrich Schiller. Schiller, whose poetry dealt in part with people's liberation from oppression, is Zepp-LaRouche's favorite poet.
The group's classical music concert nearby on the lawn next to the courthouse was a fairly highbrow affair, with sopranos singing such works as "Immer leise wird" by Brahms and "O Lucedi, Quest' anima" by Gaetano Donizetti. But the celebrants did join in singing "Happy Birthday" to Schiller.
Why Schiller? Nancy Spannaus, the head of the company that owns the bookstore and editor of the group's New Solidarity newspaper, said: "We want to revive the ideas of the American revolution and the German classical period, which are the ideas that man's freedom lies in his reason."