Friday, June 03, 2005

Dinner with Jedgar

In 1969 my wife and I were recently married and about to celebrate our first Christmas in Washington, D.C. On Christmas Eve we decided to splurge and went to the Redwood Room in the Mayflower for dinner. It had snowed that evening and so we found the place empty save three other people. In the center of the room was Vance Hartke and his wife. Hartke was a senator from Indiana and was a leading opponent of the war in Vietnam. In the corner of the room was J. Edgar Hoover, eating alone.

We were seated and almost immediately, the Senator came over to our table and asked us if we would like to join him and his wife for Christmas dinner. We moved to the larger table and the Senator said let's see if the Director would like to join us. Hartke walked over to Hoover's table to invite him. It was far enough away so that all I could hear was Hartke's midwestern twang going on for a couple of sentences. Then I heard Hoover say a single "No" in a basso profundo. Hartke came back to our table and said, "the Director has decided not to join us this evening."

That evening was memorable if for no other reason that I was working on a thesis on the War Powers Act, and so got a chance to talk to one of its authors. But he also made sure that conversation was not all about business. Hartke later sent me a copy of his book. But the one word reply from Hoover also stuck in my mind!

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