- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

The man who literally wrote the book on the Federal Reserve graciously let President Bush take center stage at the American Enterprise Institute's 60th annual dinner last week.
Wednesday's gala at the Washington Hilton was supposed to focus on economist Allan H. Meltzer, who received AEI's first Irving Kristol Award for a lifetime of dedication to economic and social issues.
Instead, the conservative think tank's ceremony provided a backdrop for a headline-making speech by Mr. Bush, who hammered home an ambitious agenda dominated by the threat of terrorism. The president promised that the United States would take an active role in bringing democracy to a Saddam Hussein-free Iraq and reinforced his call for a Palestinian state.
"We must look at security in a new way, because our country is a battlefield in the first war of the 21st century," Mr. Bush told the ever-applauding crowd.
Mr. Meltzer didn't address terrorism directly during his part of the program. The author of "History of the Federal Reserve" used his time to detail capitalism's positive effect on struggling nations.
He singled out how free and open trade has given South Koreans a far higher standard of living than their neighbors to the north experience.
The same, he said, could hold true elsewhere.
"The Middle East has not joined the global market. They have 70 percent of all major conflicts and casualties," Mr. Meltzer said.
The event's political glitterati included Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft (who sang "The Star Spangled Banner"), Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, White House strategist Karl Rove and former Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, now a cast member on NBC's "Law & Order."
Before the big speech, AEI's VIP guests clinked glasses at a smaller private reception set apart from the throngs circulating in the Hilton's grand ballroom.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, toasted Mr. Meltzer as an economist respected even by those who don't agree with him.
"At some point in life, you become such an institution in this city that even your critics say nice things about you," Mr. Norquist said of the honoree, whose criticisms of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's interest-rate policies didn't stop Mr. Greenspan from penning the forward to his "History of the Federal Reserve."
The 800-plus-page book chronicles the Federal Reserve's first 38 years, through 1951. A second volume is in the works.
Other guests had more than economics on their minds.
Judge Robert H. Bork shrugged off the widening gap between the president and certain European governments over war with Iraq.
"Countries are slipping into second and third place, and they're bothered by it," Judge Bork said matter-of-factly.
Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, who is Irving Kristol's son, also was troubled about international opposition to the liberation of Iraq.
Saddam "is on par with the worst dictators of the [last] century," Mr. Kristol said. "The Europeans seem willing to ignore this."
Christian Toto

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