Last night Joe Promisall, the world's most expensive lobbiest, took me aside and asked:
"Have you met the wife of the governor of Arizona?"
"No," I answered.
"Have you met the wife of Charles Robb?"
I answered in the negative.
"Have you met the wife of Mario Cuomo, Pierre du Pont, or Mrs. Pat Robertson, Mrs. Biden, Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Kemp, or Mrs. Hart or Mrs. Haig?"
"I know some of them a little," I answered weakly.
"It's time to seek them out," he said. "If you want to get in on the ground floor and develop a close-to-the- candidate relationship. You're not doing your job as wife of Ambassador if you ignore these ladies now."
I rang up Popsie Tribble and asked her if Joe Promisall wasn't overanticipating the election three years hence.
"Not at all," she replied. "Remember the last election. You waited too long to get to the candidates. When this election heats up, candidates and their close-tos won't have time for foreign ambassadors' wives. Only fund-raiser and pollsters matter then."
"But don't you think that's a bit cynical?" I asked.
"Cynicism is a word that doesn't exist if you really want to get close to the candidate."
"But which candidate?" I asked. "There seem to be a lot of people interested in becoming president, counting both sides."
Popsie laughed and thought. "I know what you ought to do. Why don't you give an all-candidates' lunch (declared and undeclared) in honor of the wives? I'll help you with the guest list. There are a few candidates lurking in the shadows, unknown even to Joe. Never leave out a dark horse."
"If I ask all those ladies and they actually come, won't they be suspicious of my motives?"
"You could ask me and a few other socialites to leaven the lunch. So it won't look too obvious. But don't invite Joe Promisall."
"Because he's a man?" I asked.
"No," Popsie said. "Because he's an access peddler. Lionel Portant will write a column accusing you of hiring Joe to use his influence to get the ladies to come to your embassy. The lunch will certainly leak out to the newspapers, and they'll say you and Joe are trying to increase the American trade deficit."
Beverly, I couldn't quite follow Popsie's reasoning.
"You mean it's better if I try and increase the American trade deficit all by myself?"
"Well, you have to look after your country's interests."
"Is that why I'm asking the candidates' wives for lunch?"
"Well, I wouldn't make a sales pitch to sell hydro power then and there. Be a little more subtle."
Beverly, I was still pretty dubious about Popsie's idea.
"Just think of the seating problems." I was getting worried. "Which of the candidates' wives gets the place of honor? And do you think Mrs. Cuomo will mind if I seat her next to Mrs. Hart?"
"Seating will be difficult," Popsie admitted. "Maybe you could find one large round table that will accommodate. You know," she added, "those wives hardly ever get to see each other. They're bound to to want to compare notes. Think of what they have in common. A lot of candidates' wives complain about their husbands' staffers. And they'll be happy to find out which of them are planning to speak on the hustings."
"You mean the lunch will inspire the laggards?"
"Your lunch will be multipurposeful. Mrs. Bradley will learn something from Mrs. Bush. Mrs. Robertson might get hints from Mrs. Kemp. And you'll be able to get in on the ground floor with several close-to relationships. Everyone will profit."
"What about you?" I asked.
"It certainly won't hurt Dexter's prospects if I meet some of the wives of the candidates. Even if he doesn't get a nod from the '89 administration, at least we might get invited to the WhiteHouse dinners."
"How will you parcel out your attention to the 20 or so rivals?" I asked Popsie. "If you concentrate too much on one lady, you won't annoy any others?"
"I will give six minutes precisely to each wife. I'll time it just like those candidates' debates they have on TV."
Beverly, I wasn't sure I was doing this for my country or for Popsie. So I decided against the lunch. I figured that I'd never get them all together anyway. And with my luck, among those who couldn't make it, one would probably be the next Mrs. President.
But now, in retrospect, I should have stuck with Joe Promisall. He arranged an all-candidates' dinner at Baron Spitte's embassy. Most of them came because Joe invited campaign donors instead of Popsie and Dexter Tribble. Of course there was a terrible to-do about access peddling in the newspapers. But as Baron Spitte said to Mr. Ambassador, "Who knows, maybe the next administration will veto that tax on chaulmougra oil, which, as you know, is my country's most important export."
I guess the Baron and Joe are adding to the American deficit. But they don't seem to care.
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