Monday, September 12, 2005

Mixed emotions

Guests who honored columnist Viola Herms Drath had mixed emotions as they congratulated her for vast contributions to German-American relations while mourning the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and remembering the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

And, like a ghost at the garden reception at the historic Bacon House, the memory of flamboyant lobbyist Edward von Kloberg haunted many of the guests who considered him a friend.

Mrs. Drath, whose column appears in The Washington Times, received the prestigious William J. Flynn Initiative for Peace Award from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. She was praised for a proposal that became the blueprint for the reunification of East and West Germany.

Rudy Boschwitz, a Republican former senator from Minnesota from 1978 to 1990, recalled that her proposal persuaded the first Bush administration to endorse reunification.

“Viola’s paper forced a reluctant administration to change its policy,” Mr. Boschwitz, now a delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, said at the award dinner last week.

William J. Flynn, the committee chairman after whom the award was named, called Mrs. Drath “a venerable lady of the old school.”

“This honor is meaningful for her country. We are proud to claim her on the American Foreign Policy Committee,” he said.

The Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin, chaplain of the House of Representatives, called Mrs. Drath a “gifted person.” C. Dean McGrath Jr., deputy chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, said Mrs. Drath is “still advancing freedom and promoting human rights” and working for “a world where tyrants and terrorists cannot thrive.”

Mrs. Drath — journalist, author, playwright and scholar — left her native Germany after World War II when she married Army Col. Francis S. Drath, deputy military governor of Bavaria during the U.S. occupation.

“I accept this award on behalf of those who kept the dream of German reunification alive,” she said.

Mrs. Drath recalled that hers was a lonely voice in proposing reunification talks with representatives from the United States, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and East and West Germany.

“Everybody was speculating on German reunification, and they all agreed it would never happen in their lifetimes,” she said.

Earlier in the garden reception, the guests paused to listen to Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who had just come from Chief Justice Rehnquist’s funeral.

“He was one of the most influential chief justices in American history,” Justice Scalia said.

The guests also recognized a moment of silence for the hurricane victims.

As they sipped champagne, many also shared their memories of Mr. von Kloberg, who sparkled for years in diplomatic circles before misfortune drove him to leap from the Castle St. Angelo in Rome in May.

Margaret Heckler, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and a former secretary of health and human services, noted Mr. von Kloberg’s charm. Timothy Towell, a former U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, and Albert Borg Olivier de Puget, a former ambassador from Malta, agreed that he left a vacuum on the diplomatic scene.

Fingers crossed

A top aide to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said “many people in Washington” have their “fingers crossed behind their backs” in hopes that his conservative challenger will win in Sunday’s elections.

Karsten D. Voigt, who represented Germany at Mrs. Drath’s dinner, conceded that Angela Merkel is more “ideologically pro-American” than Mr. Schroeder, who angered administration officials over his criticism of the Iraq war. However, Mr. Voigt expects little change in foreign policy if Mrs. Merkel wins.

“In substance, the difference will not be as great as many Americans expect,” he said.

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