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July 13, 2023

Stopping Off in London

Open warfare need not be the norm, even in Washington’s fabled deliberative body.

WASHINGTON — I have spent the last three weeks in a very pleasant place: Europe. Not in Moscow, nor in Kyiv nor even in Paris. Actually, I have been in London, the city that never sleeps or at least never rests when there is a coronation to be held. Moreover, I arrived in London after pilfering a page from my friend Taki’s weekly column. Like him, I am going to write about a great party I attended in London and leave the pretty girls out of it, except for my wife, Jeanne, the prettiest girl of all on the night of the party, or any other night, at least for me.

The party was held at the home of my friend, Jonathan Aitken — once a politician of real achievement, now the very Rev. Jonathan Aitken, as well as a great host and lifelong historian. He wrote back in 1993 the book that is still the best biography of Richard Nixon, for it is about the only biography that grinds no axes and pitches no conspiracies about the 37th president. Aitken is a very cheerful man, and he has taught me a new brand of Christianity: cheerful Christianity.

Almost every morning, he drives down from his elegant home in London to a grim penitentiary, where many of the inmates are pretty morose. Once at the prison, he spreads the message of Jesus Christ. It is a joyless task. For some inmates it is impossible to fathom. A few weeks ago, there were two suicides at the prison. But Jonathan remains true to his message and his message is clear to many of the inmates: “Jesus loves you and salvation is possible.” My guess is that many cons find his message consoling.

At his party the other night, Jonathan invited his usual heterogeneous crowd: figures from the worlds of politics, of intellect and of business — some would say shady business. Hollywood would have been there too, but Jonathan’s wife, Elizabeth, sadly passed away a year ago. She was a grand lady, an actress, and now she is gone. From the world of politics came Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as one of Prime Minister John Major’s foreign ministers. From the world of intellect came Sir William Shawcross — more on him later — and from the world of business came Kevin Maxwell, who has had his ups and downs, though I found him very entertaining. Then there was me. Categorize me as you will. And of course there was Jonathan, who represents several categories wherever he goes.

Malcolm Rifkind is an impressive man, conversant on numerous important issues, though my idea of late, at least on matters of foreign policy, is Henry Kissinger. He has suggested how we can end the war in Ukraine, and what is more, he just blurbed my memoirs. All this as he passed his 100th birthday. What a man! Kevin Maxwell, too, had a story to tell, though it was not a happy one. He is the brother of Ghislaine Maxwell, who now languishes in an American correctional facility for her association with the deceased Jeffrey Epstein, the celebrated child molester. Kevin Maxwell, though he has declared bankruptcy twice, claims to be blameless in his sister’s problems, and I have no reason to doubt him. He plans to assist his sister in her further legal challenges, and I wish him good luck, though I am doubtful of the outcome.

And then there is William Shawcross, who was made Sir William Shawcross two days before we all ventured out to Jonathan’s house for fine wines and good conversation. Sir William and I go back over many decades — almost five, in fact. In our February 1980 issue of The American Spectator, we awarded him the J. Gordon Coogler Award for writing the Worst Book of the Year in 1979. He honored us by inviting our reviewer, Peter Rodman, to answer the gravamen of William’s charges in the second edition of William’s book, “Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia.” This initiated a great friendship between Shawcross and Rodman. Their friendship brought them to such unity on foreign policy matters that in 2011 our board of directors rescinded his Worst Book of the Year Award and asked that William return the handsome trophy. Rather churlishly, our board insisted on its return, and we are now at an impasse, though at Jonathan’s the other night, William and I got along swimmingly. In fact, I promised him an autographed copy of my memoirs.

Let our friendship serve as a lesson to America’s Democrats and Republicans that open warfare need not be the norm, even in Washington’s fabled deliberative body.

Glory to Ukraine!


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