"Thank you for your loyalty," Ron Walker, chairman of the Richard Nixon Foundation, told the crowd at the Mayflower Hotel. "All of us in this room have a special bond: We worked for Richard Nixon."
Nixon would have turned 100 on Wednesday, and although the former president's legacy is inextricably linked with the Watergate scandal and his own reputation for gruff, quirky awkwardness, his most faithful admirers and staffers gathered at the Mayflower on Wednesday evening to pay tribute.
The setting was Washington perfect. The Mayflower, after all, has been the site of politics and scandal for decades — from being a favorite hangout for children's author/British spy Roald Dahl to being the site of the trysts of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
The party was thrown by the Richard Nixon Foundation, and attendees included the Nixon daughters, the president's youngest brother, Ed, former Nixon aides Patrick Buchanan and Ben Stein, Harry Shearer, the actor who played Nixon in the UK series "Nixon's the One" and the evening's keynote speaker, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
"Hello, Dr. Kissinger," this HOH reporter said. "Sorry to interrupt. I'm a reporter with Roll Call."
"What is that?" he asked.
"I don't know what that is," he said.
"We're a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill. We cover politics."
"What's your question?" he barked.
Reader, you haven't lived until one of the most feared men in American politics yells at you to ask a question and you're faced with the possibility of asking them anything. How many people would have risen to the occasion? How many questions still remain from his tenure as secretary of State? How did he really feel about invading Cambodia?
Unfortunately, we froze. We couldn't think of one question, not any one, so instead we gestured to the room filled to overflowing with the most powerful people from 1970s Washington.
"How does it feel to see the president honored this way?" we asked lamely.
"It is very moving," Kissinger said. "I'm especially touched there's so many young people. It shows that the Nixon legacy carried on."
The sign over the podium behind the 89-year-old Kissinger's head read "Happy Birthday President Nixon: Patriot President Peacemaker."
Just before dinner, we caught Ed Nixon, the youngest of the president's four brothers, going into the dining room.
"People want to write [President Richard Nixon] off," he said rather fiercely, the cadence and tone of his voice sounding a lot like his older brother. "But it ain't gonna happen. His legacy is too strong. No matter how many detractors there are, eventually they will all wake up [and] realize [Nixon's] legacy will go on for a long time."
Then the man who looked so much like our former president winked at me and said goodbye with a catch phrase: "Keep 'em smiling."