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A Night Out: Common Ground in Kalorama

Authors Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas sign books, sing punk-rock lyrics, and entertain a full house at their book release party.
Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas sign copies of their new book, "Common Ground."
Esther Coopersmith’s home.

What: A reception for authors Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel to celebrate their new book, Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America.  Thomas, a conservative, and Beckel, a liberal, assert that people of opposing viewpoints can work together on many divisive issues facing society today.

Where: The Kalorama home of Esther Coopersmith— former US representative to the United Nations. The hostess, however, was nowhere to be found, except in many of the hundreds of photographs around her elegantly decorated house. Thomas politely explained that Mrs. Coopersmith was “indisposed” after a recent knee operation.

Two-hundred fifty books were brought to the event; most were purchased by guests and signed by the authors.

When: October 9, 6:30 to 9:00 PM. 

Who: Keeping with the “common ground” theme, a diverse crowd was invited to mingle and exchange ideas. The guest list included various senators and Congress members, including Texas’s Kay Bailey Hutchison, Florida’s Jeff Miller, and Missouri’s Roy Blunt. Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, conservative powerbroker L. Brent Bozell III, GOP lobbyist Juleanna Glover-Weiss, and former DNC chair Charles Manatt were also present. Gordon Peterson, Brit Hume, and Mort Kondracke were among the news personalities represented. Other guests included Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, Washington Post religion blogger Sally Quinn, ABC’s Katherine O’Hearn, and John Dickerson of Slate.com. The authors welcomed many of their own family members, and Beckel even extended invitations to his graduate students at George Washington University.

Food: A large table was piled with an assortment of colorful finger food. Some guests sampled strawberries, vegetables, and small sandwiches; others went straight for dessert—chocolate brownies and a variety of bite-size cakes.

Drink: A small bar was set up in one corner of the dining room, offering a selection of wine and soft drinks. Most guests helped themselves to a glass or two from one of the many waiters circulating around the house.

Scene: Despite Coopersmith’s absence, her home filled with guests of differing political affiliations who spoke fondly of their hostess. “We are so grateful she believes in common ground, inviting people of different backgrounds to get to know one another,” Thomas remarked. And get to know one another they did­—the sound of happy conversation animated Coopersmith’s spacious home. Most guests purchased Common Ground upon arrival, toting copies upstairs for Thomas and Beckel to sign. The queue to reach the authors trailed out of the living room and into the hallway, but the authors patiently personalized each book.

The highlight of the evening was a short address by the guests of honor, in which they told why they decided to write a book together. What could have been a very serious speech was more like a comedy act, with both authors sending the audience into fits of laughter.

Fits?  No, really!  Thomas belted lyrics from the song "One People, One Struggle," by punk group Anti-Flag when discussing welfare.  “When the people are energized, the people united will never be defeated.” He then observed this was “the closest a white guy will ever get to hip-hop.”  Thomas, who is in his mid-sixties, apparently has not heard of Eminem, a top-selling white rapper.

Thomas and Beckel: authors or comedians?

Beckel, a well-known liberal, spoke next, explaining that “this is the first book I’ve ever written—which means I’ve now written more books than I’ve read.” Soon thereafter, his cell phone rang. Thomas jokingly asked if it was his pacemaker getting low on battery. Beckel retorted that the call was “probably my bookie.”

The evening was brought to a close on a more serious note, when Beckel, a recovering alcoholic, mentioned that during his rough personal time, “Cal was there from the beginning. He took care of me for a long time—that is something that will transcend politics any day.”

The men will spend the next two months together promoting Common Ground. Good thing they get along well. “I sort of feel like I’m married to you,” Beckel confessed to Thomas.

 

Book synopsis: Think Thomas and Beckel’s USA Today column in book form. The authors argue that members of different parties actually can get along and that voters should affiliate themselves not with parties but with principles that directly benefit the largest number of citizens. Can common ground be reached with a presidential election on the horizon?

Cooperstein had a large presence, although the hostess was not present herself.

Ratings:

Boldface Names: 2.5 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 2 (out of 5)
Food and drink: 3 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 3 (out of 5)

Total score: 10.5 (out of 20)


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