- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

So many statesmen are sung in Washington that it’s refreshing to honor a man who has been unsung. That was the tone Thursday night at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ dinner honoring former NATO ambassador, Republican adviser, author and professor David M. Abshire, who also was marking his 80th birthday.

Mr. Abshire, tall, self-effacing and apple-cheeked, co-founded CSIS in 1962. Among the major names on hand to celebrate over chicken with wild rice at the Mayflower Hotel: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; former Cabinet members Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Frank Carlucci, Bill Brock, Tom Ridge and former FBI and CIA chief William H. Webster.

Talk invariably centered on the news of the day — I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby saying he was ordered by President Bush to leak Valerie Plame’s identity to the press — with Mr. Kissinger pausing to comment cautiously that he was “very disappointed — if that’s what he said.” Like many of the guests, former Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns preferred focusing on Mr. Abshire, calling him “one of the great Washington gentlemen.”

There were a few golf jokes by former Sen. Sam Nunn, sitting with former colleague Chuck Robb and the charming Duke of Westminster, rather natty in Savile Row pinstripes and shaggy hair. (He flew in from London on his private jet.) We asked if it was true that he is, according to Forbes magazine, the richest ($8.7 billion) man in England? “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not something I dwell upon.”

David Gergen skipped out before dinner to honor another commitment, although many stayed to schmooze with the guest of honor, who heads the Center for the Study of the Presidency.

“David has been an unsung hero in Washington for 40 years,” Mr. Schlesinger noted, a milestone by any standard.

Not that the birthday boy is thinking of slowing down.

“Somebody asked me if I was retiring,” Mr. Abshire said with a laugh. “I’m just beginning.”

— Stephanie Mansfield

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