Curious Readers Want The Dish on Breakfast

It has been surprising to me to receive so many questions about the Monitor breakfast group since our announcement that we had reached our 3,000th. We journalists sit down with a public figure for an hour in which we pepper our guest with questions. Then we leave. That's it. Very simple.

But Monitor readers want to know more - about what has gone on at these sessions over the years. So I'll try to cover some of the highlights.

Who have been some of the most notable guests?

All of the leading presidential candidates over the last three decades have met with us. In the late 1960s we had a lunch with Dean Acheson. And back then, too, Averell Harriman met with us on several occasions. At the height of his power, Willy Brandt dropped by to talk to us on a visit to the United States. Abba Eban once sat at our table. Only a few years ago, the Dalai Lama was our guest. And Benjamin Netanyahu - when he was a rising star in Israel - told us in detail of his hopes and plans for his country. Oh, yes, and we have been meeting with presidents in the White House since President Ford invited us over to his "digs," as he called them, on our group's 10th anniversary in 1976.

Henry Kissinger often gave us the benefit of his deep thinking on global affairs - at least a dozen times. Robert McNamara on several occasions expressed his views on Vietnam. Historians James MacGregor Burns and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., were with us. And then, too, economists like Arthur Burns, Walter Heller, and Milton Friedman also graced our table.

What were some of the highlights?

When I look back over nearly 33 years, I find it difficult to remember the breakfasts that stood out. So many made news - but I would have to go to my clippings to recall them. However, there was that breakfast when Bobby Kennedy decided to run for president. That was a big one. Then there was the time Ed Rollins stirred up a firestorm with his talk about suppressing the black vote. And there was Newt Gingrich's so-called "crybaby" performance when he complained about President Clinton snubbing him on Air Force One.

But if I would have to pick one breakfast that's produced the most stories over the years, it would be the visit of both of the Clintons to our breakfast on Sept. 16, 1991. That was when we heard President Clinton, for the first time, address his marital problems.

Who were the most frequent guests?

Robert Strauss has met with us again and again since the breakfast got started. This political sage and adviser of several presidents always draws a big group. So often Mr. Strauss has reliable "inside" information. And, with it all, he is unfailingly funny and entertaining.

Others who often have had bacon and eggs with us over the years include: Hubert Humphrey, Mike Mansfield, Melvin Laird, Charles Percy, George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, Brent Scowcroft, Nelson Rockefeller, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter, Barry Goldwater, Jack Kemp, Tom Foley, William Webster, Richard Lugar, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Stansfield Turner, and Lee Hamilton. I know I am leaving some people out!

In 3,000 get-togethers has there ever been any guest who didn't show up?

Just one. Back in the late 60s John Kenneth Galbraith left us waiting and wondering where he was. It turned out to be a scheduling mistake by his secretary. He was all apologies - and back at breakfast the following week.

Others, of course, have been late. Humphrey was always tardy. So we journalists arrived about 8:30 for a Humphrey breakfast, knowing that he would make up for it at the other end of the hour with us. Indeed, on one occasion he kept us there until nearly noon. Once launched, Humphrey was hard to stop - but what a delightful, informative fellow he was!

Finally, would I do it all over again?

Absolutely. It's been a great ride. Indeed, as I write this I've just hosted our 3,006th breakfast. We're on our way to 4,000!

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