Kurt Andersen wrote in New York recently about the Aspen Institute’s ‘glitzy-wonky summer camp,’ which some day I hope to observe.
“And just like at school or camp, there was buzz about the hotties and fresh faces. The week’s “It” boy was Noah Feldman, a good-looking, silver-tongued, terrifyingly self-confident 35-year-old NYU law professor with an Oxford degree in Islamic studies, a timely new book (Divided by God), and a recent posting in Baghdad advising the Iraqis on their constitution. He seemed more like a character on The West Wing than a real person. When a president of Harvard (Summers) and a former CIA director (James Woolsey) both stood to ask him respectful questions about Islamic fanatics, you could practically feel the envious admiration in the room. After Feldman mentioned that a key part of the Saudis’ geopolitical strategy is “buying off potential enemies,” I looked for Walter, intending to tease him about his institute’s new Prince Bandar restaurant, underwritten by the Saudi ambassador.
During another discussion, when one panelist used the phrase “let the chips fall,” Bill Bennett cracked, “Don’t say ‘chips’ around me.” And when the week’s surprise guest and ultimate BMOC, Bill Clinton, showed up on Friday for a one-on-one with Walter, he paused halfway through a story about a Pentecostal-minister friend’s “confessing” his vote for Bush last fall. “The world’s most famous sinner,” Clinton said, “and I got a preacher confessing to me.