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ANDREW ELIOT’S DIARY. One of the joys of being a reunion organizer as well as fundraiser is that I get to go to a lot of interesting places I would never normally be allowed
November 17, 1982
One of the joys of being a reunion organizer as well as fundraiser is that I get to go to a lot of interesting places I would never normally be allowed into.
The White House, for instance.
Now, obviously the Reunion Committee wanted George Keller to lecture as part of the week’s events. Being his oldest Harvard friend, I was deputized to enlist him.
My first surprise when I called on the Department of State was that I got right through to him. My second was that he invited me to Washington for lunch. My third was that we would be eating not in some posh Washington bistro but at the White House Mess, so he could give me a short tour of the presidential premises.
It was fascinating. I even got to see the famous Situation Room, which was a real thrill because it was so disappointing. I mean, it’s just a windowless cubicle with a table and some chairs. To think that so many of recent history’s most portentous decisions have been made in this glorified phone booth!
It was here that George asked me to sit down and chat about what had brought me all the way to Washington.
I asked him how he felt about Harvard.
He responded by asking me how they felt about him. Specifically, did the faculty still regard him as a Kissinger hatchet man?
I replied as tactfully as I could that, though they had come down on him and Henry pretty hard during the war, that was now nearly ten years ago. Besides, we were all dying for him to speak to The Class. You know, tell them what it’s like to cross swords with Brezhnev and those guys.
“You’re a big hero to all of us,” I told him. “There’s no ambivalence about that.”
I then asked him if he was planning to come to the reunion anyway.
He confessed that he had been hesitant, afraid he’d hardly know anybody.
I countered by saying that now everybody knows him . Besides, most of the people I’d seen had changed so much physically, guys probably wouldn’t recognize their own roommates. I mean, Newall, for example, was balding and twenty pounds heavier.
I didn’t tell him that Dickie had also been having a little drinking problem of late (kind of drowning his middle-aged sorrows).
Anyway, I pressed on with my mission to persuade him to appear. And, after a little more flattery, he at last smiled okay.
He even complimented me on my negotiating powers. And said he’d give me a job anytime.
A little while later, he walked me to the White House gate, where a cab was waiting to take me to the airport.
I grinned from ear to ear all the way back to Boston. I, Andrew Eliot, had achieved a diplomatic coup with one of the world’s great diplomats.
When he returned to his office, George Keller had an unexpected visitor — his wife.
She was seated on the couch, clutching a sheaf of long printed paper.
“What a pleasant surprise.”
She waited to reply until he had closed the door. “You bloody traitorous bastard!”
“What’s the matter?” he asked calmly.
“Why the hell did you collaborate with that mudslinger. Tom Leighton?”
“Catherine, I don’t know what’s got into you. The man’s an important journalist for The New York Times . And I had lunch with him — once.”
“Come off it, Keller. A friend of mine from Newsweek just sent me these excerpts they’re printing from his book, The guy’s really vicious. And it’s obvious to me that the ‘source close to Kissinger’ he keeps quoting could only have been you.”
“Cathy, I swear —”
“George, I can’t take any more of your lies. You know I never had much love for Henry, but he was like a second father to you. And that book is an absolute defamation. Don’t you have any loyalties?”
“Catherine, you’re jumping to conclusions based on no evidence whatsoever. Can’t we discuss this at home?”
“No, George, I won’t be there. I’m leaving you.”
“Just because you think I talked to some ambitious reporter?”
“No, George. Because this proves to me bow stupid I was to ever think I could change you. You’re a selfish bastard who can’t give love and isn’t even trusting enough to take it. Now, have I given you sufficient reasons?”
“Please, Cathy, may I have a chance to explain my side of this?”
“On one condition,”
“You can have sixty minutes to present your case. But if I’m not convinced, you’ll sign papers for a Mexican divorce.”
“You mean you’ve already seen a lawyer?”
“No, my sweet,” she replied. “You’re so involved with yourself you forget I am a lawyer.”
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