- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

Henry Kissinger thought the scheduled timing of his speech at this year’s Nixon Center dinner was a bit odd, but the former secretary of state cooperated, joking with the audience cheering him and the recent capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“I must say I have never previously been present at an awards ceremony where you speak before you have been given the award. I hope they still give it [to me],” Mr. Kissinger told the packed crowd at the Mayflower Hotel Monday night after a dinner of lobster bisque, Chilean sea bass, filet mignon and mixed berries topped with mascarpone.

Later, event organizers at the head table assured Mr. Kissinger that they had taken a vote and he still would be honored. (Recipients traditionally speak before the awards ceremony at Nixon Center dinners.)

The mood was celebratory as the 80-year-old statesman applauded the “courage” of the Bush administration for its moves in Iraq. Saddam’s capture, he noted, was a great success but also a test of the United States: “There is only one exit strategy, and that exit strategy is success. There is no other way out.”

The think tank’s soiree was punctuated with ribbings about the guest of honor’s instantly recognizable accent and Democratic party foibles, although Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of the few Democrats present, also was there to honor him. Perhaps former Secretary of Energy and Defense James Schlesinger’s conservative credentials explained why he got the biggest laugh of the night after quipping that he was on painkillers but was hoping he wouldn’t get hooked. (Second round to you, Mr. Limbaugh.)

Numerous ambassadors (Russia, China, Germany and Indonesia among them) were spotted in the VIP-heavy crowd at the Mayflower Hotel, along with former President Richard Nixon’s daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower, sons-in-law David Eisenhower and Edward Cox and brother Edward Nixon; Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee and wife Stephanie; former CIA Director James Woolsey; former National Security Adviser Robert C. “Bud” McFarland; former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen; and numerous Republican elders, many with Nixon-era credentials, including Roderick and Carla Hills, Robert Ellsworth, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Fred Ikle and Fred Fielding.

Attention seldom drifted from the honoree, who was, by anyone’s calculation, the only political mega-star in the room.

“If there is any moment in American history since the end of World War II where we need the breadth and depth and judgment of a Henry Kissinger, it is right now,” Mr. Biden affirmed before he and Mrs. Eisenhower presented Mr. Kissinger with the center’s Distinguished Service Award.

Nixon Center President Dimitri K. Simes pointed out that the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize winner was being honored on the 30th anniversary of the year he was appointed secretary of state.

Mr. Simes observed that Mr. Kissinger’s considerable expertise with global issues is a valuable resource that should be consulted as the United States confronts problems throughout the world.

“American foreign policy is at a crossroads. Fundamental decisions need to be made,” Mr. Simes said at evening’s end. “If someone could help us get a road map, it [would be] Kissinger.”

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