- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

Nail-biting finish

The party at the British ambassador's residence was planned to celebrate a major new publication on the history of the United Kingdom, but U.S. politics intervened.

Instead of concentrating on the past, the dinner guests Thursday night were captivated by the present, as they shared their shock over the deadlocked presidential election.

Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, in a display of that trademark British wit, said, "Life is so dull and boring, I thought we'd give a party to liven things up."

Mr. Meyer compiled a guest list heavy with Washington journalists and political types to introduce British historian Simon Schama, author of "A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? 3500 B.C.-1603 A.D." The BBC has created a series based on his book for the History Channel.

Despite its weighty title, this opus is a lively insider's look at fact, gossip and scandal in the development of a country that would give birth to the United States. Today's political crisis here could be another chapter in his book.

Tina Brown, editor of Talk magazine, the co-publisher with Miramax, called the election "nail-bitingly intense."

Mr. Schama, after dinner, looked over the lavish dining room that included Winston Churchill, grandson of Britain's wartime prime minister; President Clinton's adviser Sidney Blumenthal; Bob Woodward of The Washington Post; Ben Bradlee, The Post's former editor; and Arnaud de Borchgrave, former editor of The Washington Times and now head of United Press International.

"I'm just astonished you're here with that constitutional crisis unfolding somewhere out there in America," Mr. Schama said.

"This is an incredibly intense historical moment. It is a national photo op for which we were not prepared to pose."

History, he added, is what happens even when you are not looking.

"History comes and creeps up on you, and this is certainly one of those moments," he said.

Mr. Schama, who now lives in the United States, says he is "grateful to America," especially when it is so chaotic.

"This is what you get," he added jokingly, "when you have a written constitution."

Britain doesn't.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Vygaudas Usackas, Lithuania's deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator with the European Union. He meets with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Anthony Blinken of the National Security Council. Tomorrow he addresses invited guests at Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty.

• Sadako Ogata, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, who holds a 9 a.m. news conference at the National Press Club to release an annual report on refugees.

• Billie Miller, deputy prime minister of Barbados; Lourdes Flores, former member of the Peruvian Congress; Rebeca Grynspan, former vice president of Costa Rica; and Brazil's Martha Suplicy, mayor-elect of Sao Paulo, and Benedita da Silva, vice governor of Rio de Janeiro State. They attend a seminar on women in politics at the InterAmerican Development Bank.

• Sukru Banay, vice governor of the Central Bank of Turkey, who participates in a World Bank conference on emerging markets.


• Alejandro Toledo, Peruvian opposition leader and presidential candidate, who addresses invited guests at the InterAmerican Dialogue and at the Heritage Foundation.

• Harri Holkeri of Finland, president of the U.N. General Assembly.

• Dissidents Wei Jingsheng of China, Doan Viet Hoat of Vietnam and Youk Chang of Cambodia, who will be honored at the Truman-Reagan Freedom Awards Dinner.


• Lomale Simeon Mwonga, chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Khartoum, Sudan. He participates in a news conference on genocide in Sudan at 7 p.m. at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


• Boris Milner of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Cao Yuanzheng of the Bank of China International, who discuss transitions from a centrally planned economy with invited guests at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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