Monday, April 11, 2011

Washington Social Diary

Are they talking about the "potential" shutdown? Doubtful.
By Carol Joynt

It was literally eleven o’clock on Friday night, an hour to a government shutdown, and the remaining guests at a Georgetown party had a drink in one hand and a Blackberry in the other, though a few of them, as Administration officials, knew the PDAs would have to go dark at midnight; their use would not be allowed without federal funding.

One National Security Council official, deemed “essential,” earlier had returned to the White House after a quick “hello” with the guest of honor, Jim Bitterman, CNN’s Paris correspondent. 

The Georgetown townhouse of Amy Bondurant and David Dunn.
Nearing the 11th hour, Brian McKeon checks his Blackberry. The news? Crisis averted.
The unfolding drama had inched its way from the edges to the center of the party. The hosts, Amy Bondurant and David Dunn, had CNN on the in kitchen while another “non-essential” National Security staffer discreetly tracked messages from the Situation Room, though the updates were understandably more informed about an intransigent Laurent Gbagbo than budget talks.

Under the high ceilings of the the Dunn's elegant living room, looking out on spring blossoms lit by a street lamp, a member of Vice President Joseph Biden’s inner circle announced that there appeared to be an agreement. “Check Politico,” he said, for confirmation. was beamed in and sure enough there was the breaking news: agreement reached, shutdown averted. Sigh.

What didn’t get much reported about the “potential” government shutdown was that most people here in Washington never seriously expected it to happen. It was too soon in the overall budget game and both sides had too much to lose politically.

Looking back at the Clinton-Gingrich face-off of 1995, and with higher stakes now, President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner each needed the “time out” of an 11th hour deal, which is what they got. Think of Friday’s developments as the first down on a field that runs from here to November 6, 2012. The next raucous play will be over a debt ceiling bill.

Regardless of whether the shutdown was seriously expected, the city went through the motions of preparation: local media breathlessly reported the possible impact, every agency/company/business in town issued a press release pertaining to its own self-centered interests, and there were assurances that while the federal checkbook would stall, and museums and federal parks would close, the hospitals, police and fire would function, the subway would run and the zoo animals would be fed. If you tuned into the drumbeat it had the portent of hysteria. Or, you could tune it out, and life went on as normal.

That’s how it felt at the Bondurant-Dunn home, where they pulled together an intimate group of far-flung friends to enjoy each other and the company of Bitterman, the visiting foreign correspondent. Remember when that was the most romantic job in journalism? Back when networks and major newspapers had staffed up bureaus all over the world? Bitterman, nominally CNN’s “Senior European Correspondent,” has lived abroad since 1978, first in Rome and then Paris, where he’s been based since 1980. Talking to him, it’s clear the job is still romantic if a lot less staffed-up.
The buffet by candlelight was prepared by International lawyer/caterer David Dunn.
John Palmer observes.
The living room.
Amy Bondurant welcomes her guests.
Amy Bondurant: "I'm allergic to everything but French champagne."
Amy Bondurant and Lucy Spiegel.
Bitterman was visiting the U.S. for a number of reasons, including some lecturing tied to his role as an adjunct communications professor at The American University of Paris. He was also reconnecting with friends since the sudden death of his wife, Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Patricia Thompson. In Washington he stayed with Retirement Living TV host and former Today show anchor John Palmer and his wife, writer Nancy Doyle Palmer.

Guests at the cocktail party included Mark Malloch-Brown, a one-time Georgetown neighbor who we all knew as “Mark,” but who left DC for roles (and titles) as United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, and British Minister of State in the Gordon Brown government, and who was made a Life Peer as Baron Malloch-Brown and who is, officially, “Lord Brown.” Still, thankfully, he answers to “Mark.” He just published a book, The Unfinished Global Revolution.
Lee Heubner and Paula Stern. Mary Yates and Lucy Spiegel.
Michael and Katherine Hanley with Nancy Doyle Palmer.
Jim Bitterman. Lord Malloch-Brown and David Dunn.
Lucy Spiegel, David Dunn, Amy Bondurant, and Mark Malloch-Brown.
John Palmer, Lee Heubner, and Paul Brown.
The food was tough to resist.
Liz Tankersley and David Dunn.
Jim Bitterman, David Dunn, and Michael Hanley.
Brian McKeon and Mary Yates.
Bitterman and Dunn.
Hail fellow: Bitterman and Dunn.
Bitterman friends included CNN colleague Lucy Spiegel, one of the network’s Washington programming executives; Lee Heubner, an adviser to the Agha Khan; Paula Stern, former chair of the International Trade Commission, now with her own shop and on the boards of Avon and Hasbro; Paul London, former chief economist at the Commerce Department; Liz Tankersley; Brian McKeon and Mary Yates.

It was a relaxed and happy party with delicious food made by David Dunn, using recipes from his southern background. It could be a calling should he choose to give up his day job as an international business lawyer with Patton Boggs. David and Amy split their time between Washington and Paris, where they have an apartment. She is a former Senate legislative counsel, U.S. Ambassador and sits on the boards of Rolls-Royce and the American Hospital in Paris. All in all, the perfect hosts for a night of real if anticlimactic government drama.
Not too many cares but a relaxed time with friends.

The Vital Voices Global Partnership is taking center stage in Washington this week for their 10th annual leadership awards program. The awards will be presented tomorrow evening at the Kennedy Center, but over the weekend Juleanna Glover held a welcoming party at her Kalorama home.

Juleanna Glover's home at twilight on a Saturday evening.
I stopped in as the party was filling up fast and, typical for Juleanna, featured loads of food, lots of wine and the hostess at the door, smiling, and greeting her guests with glasses of champagne.

Tickets for the main event start at $100 and go up to half a million. Where do the profits go? To training and mentoring “more than 8,000 emerging women leaders from 127 countries in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Lartin American, the Caribbean and Middle East.”

The awards presenters include Tina Brown, Sally Field, Rosario Dawson, Cokie Roberts and Diane von Furstenberg. The honorees are Daw Aung San Suu Kyl of Burma, Fatema Akbari of Afghanistan, Kah Walla of Cameroon, Liron Peleg-Hadomi and Noha Khatieb of Israel and Sunitha Krishnan of India.

Some names from Juleanna’s guest list: Gail Bassin, Tom Williamson, Maureen Orth, Michele Imhoff, Paula Dobriansky, Peter and Elizabeth Lenzner, Sarah Brewer, Nicole Hauspurg, Karen Spencer, Virginia Shore, Franco Nuschese, Xavier Equihua, George Chopivsky, Drew Ladner, Amb. Heng Chee Chan of Singapore, Michele Manatt, Donna McLarty, Debbie Dingell, Sarah Feinberg, Chitra Ragavan, Connie Carter, Anie Totah, Steve Chaggaris, Tamera Luzzatto and David Leiter, Bart and Leslie Gordon, Kianoosh Tahbaz-Salehi, Mark Vlasic, Boydon Gray, Binta Niambi Brown, Larry and Susan Ness, Susan Carter, and Grace Bender.
The reason for the party.
Two supporters of Vital Voices.
Juleanna readies the champagne.
Juleanna Glover. Champagne for all.
Virginia Shore, center, greets Vital Voices awardee Kah Walla of Cameroon.
Amelia and Martha. Vital Voices award recipient Sunitha Krishnan of India, honored as "an anti-human trafficking pioneer."
Kah Walla, honored for her work advancing the economic status of women in Cameroon.
Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices.
The buffet.
The party, filling up...
What's a good home party without the family dog?
David Leiter and Tamera Luzzatto.
Carol's upcoming memoir is Innocent Spouse, excerpted at