The Aspen Institute invites nonpartisan leaders of both sexes to come and discuss the world’s most complex problems. There are 2 lecture series that Ruth and I like a lot, McCloskey and Hurst, and when we go to Aspen we try to attend some. They are always stimulating and give us a chance to see and hear people we only otherwise get to see on news broadcasts or in media interviews.
This year we had the opportunity to hear Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but blew it. She, a Supreme Court liberal, was there to address “The Legacy of Justice Scalia”, a conservative judge, on August 1. This was part of the McCloskey Speaker Series, and when we first heard about it, this conversation with Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson, former CNN CEO and noted author, was SOLD OUT. I read the next day that Ginsberg’s friendship with Antonin Scalia spanned decades and overcame their ideological differences. He used to show her his opinions before submitting them so she could understand his point-of-view. This reaching across the partisan divide sounded very interesting.
Two nights later the Hurst Lecture Series was presenting Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. He was to be interviewed by media veteran Gillian Tett, US managing editor of the British Financial Times. This sounded very interesting too and tickets were available. We went.
Tett turned out to be a no-nonsense, straight shooter and McAuliffe, one of only 15 Democratic governors, is a smooth-talking politician. Since he presides over the only state where a governor can’t run for a 2nd consecutive term and is a very popular Democrat, he is seriously considering running for President in 2020. He was also Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 until 2005 and ran Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign. He seems to want the top job.
On August 11 another Hurst Lecture involved 4 national security advisors, 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans who served under presidents Bush and Obama. They were Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, who advised Bush, and Susan Rice and Tom Donilon, who assisted Obama. All were eloquent. Donilon told the audience that North Korea was the United States’ most perilous security issue and said, “North Korea is like a slow-motion Cuban missile crisis.”
Ten minutes into the conversation, one of the participants said something that was subject-to-interpretation opinion and the moderator, Nicholas Burns, stopped the flow and reminded the guests to be impartial. Burns is a professor in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. It was the one and only partisan comment of the entire hour except for a bit of Trump bashing from an audience member. During Q and A, Condoleezza Rice had the opportunity to make partisan comments in response to a question, but she avoided taking sides with great finesse. She often referred to Susan Rice, a Barak Obama security advisor, as her little sister.
This 3rd lecture of the week was also SOLD OUT but Ruth & I got in. The ticket sellers told us to show up an hour before the lecture and get on a waiting list. We were #15 and #16 but we scored tickets. About 30 people like us showed up and we all got in. There are usually no shows.
I took this from their website , “The Aspen Institute programs have achieved an international reputation as an effective and impartial forum for constructive dialogue on significant issues.” This is a true statement and the AI is certainly needed in the United States now.
ps photo of Condoleezza Rice by Jack Gruber