The decision to unite Madelaine Albright, and Dick Cheney, in their first joint appearance-ever, this past fall, was a brilliant example of creativity and gumption on the part of the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center event organizers.
The first woman to become Secretary of State, a dedicated Democrat, and the most powerful vice-president in American history, a vigorous Republican, engaged in a discourse that was both intellectually stimulating and refreshingly civil.
The Odd Couple has Appeal
The timing of their appearance was particularly prescient, as the country was nearing the end of the 2018 mid-term election campaigns; the dominating news of the moment was gruesome accounts of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khasoggi’s murder. The event drew a very big crowd.
Wendeen arrived for the debate, in the nick of time to catch up with the two distinguished guests that had consulted with her office on special counsel requirements–in two different Presidential administrations. The former Veep and one-time chief diplomat smiled, as if they remembered her well, but neither one greeted her by name. Together, they beckoned her to take advantage of a grand photo opportunity. Now take a look at the group photo! This picture is awesomely telling. The honorable dignitaries are at the ready to fake delight–of sorts, while Wendeen is at the ready to play her part in the scene!
The Stars are Aligned!
Secretary Albright and VP Cheney made their way to the stage, flushed, from recent flashes of public attention on their lives. Madame Secretary had been crisscrossing the country more than continents, of late, with books that highlight her continuing relevance in foreign affairs and the super confident one-time Vice President has proven himself worthy of a Christian Bale performance in the upcoming movie, Vice. Russell Goldsmith, the longtime Chair of City National Bank and an esteemed member of the Council on Foreign Relations, served as the low-keyed intellectual who acted as a moderating force between these two hot tamales.
Walking with a certain authority in her kitten heels, Secretary Albright sashayed to her place. She was wearing a brooch, perhaps in homage to her best selling book, Read my Pins. It is a collection of stories that link her well-known collection of brooches to her diplomatic communications, The brooches provide her with a style signature. Secretary Albright’s latest scholarly tome (2018) and third NY Times best seller, is Fascism, A Warning.
The former Vice President was second in the parade to the armchair-based conversation. He stood at ease, reveling in his uber celebrity status as the chief protagonist in the highly touted, upcoming biopic of his life. He knew that it would confirm both his extraordinary power in American political history and the counterpoint of his record-low approval ratings by the end of the George W. Bush presidential administration. The former Vice-President exuded comfort in this rather unfamiliar venue.
The speakers were followed by Mr. Goldsmith. He tailed behind them with perfect posture and a half smile; he checked his ego at the door and promptly turned the spotlight evenly on the two speakers.
Once they squared off, the Albright- Cheney pairing covered a wide range of world events and foreign policy issues. The speakers’ divergent views were less discernible then their apparent commitment to mind their manners. For the most part, the audience mimicked their example. You could forget for a moment the crazy world in which we currently reside–no matter which side of the spectrum is your favored home court.
The complexities facing the current US president in our relationship with Saudi Arabia was front and center that evening; the apparent cover-up of the murder of the Saudi Arabian- American resident journalist was boiling over.
Decorum–Staying the Course
The evening’s speakers offered overviews and strategies that were more similar than different, both taking measured positions rather than engaging in rambunctious, independent, politically motivated rants. Different political views, notwithstanding, this audience was reacting to the program as if they live in one America, even when tested.
There did come one point in the discussion, in which some strongly disposed Democrats seemed agitated by the respect Secretary Albright gave to the former Vice President. But, the savvy Streicker Center executive director took notice– deftly.
Gady Levy stepped in- -at the speed of lightning. He stood at attention, raising his hand slowly, with the gesture of a stop sign. By the time his hand was visible to the crowd, everyone had simmered down; this crowd aspired to higher standards of civility.
An Evening Marked by Civility
Educated, competitive, focused strongly on public service and their independent ideas, the Albright-Cheney match-up kept the audiences’ rapt attention for their entire 90-minute lesson in passionate politics, grounded by civil argumentation and debate.