Memo To: Barbara Haslam, my secretary
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Please schedule ten dinners
If I could have dinner with ten people over the next ten weeks, one per week, here they are in order of priority. Please see what you can do.
1. Zhu Rongzhi The People's Republic of China's most important leader, Zhu oversees the national economy. I'd discuss his view of China's development in both the economic and political realm, trying to assess his long-term vision. And I'd give him my offbeat view of what we are up to these days, trying to figure out how to run the world. He knows more of what I don't know than anyone else I can think of who really matters. I'd bring him a copy of The Federalist and suggest he get a good translation throughout the realm.
2. Pope John Paul II Okay, I am a Catholic, of Polish ancestry, and the Pontiff is coming down the home stretch. I'd hope I could get him to talk about global politics and economics. What he hopes as a path for the spiritual progress of mankind... and prospects for ecumenical merging of the three monotheistic faiths in the century ahead. Does he ever sit down to dinner and gab for two or three hours with only one fellow? Would we have pirogies, pasta... or loaves and fishes? We could swap Polish jokes when we tired of talking Big Stuff.
3. Kofi Annan I have more respect for this UN General Secretary than his predecessors. The world now is in a more interesting political orbit than it has been in for years, perhaps millennia. I'd like to explore his deepest fears about the world's political trajectory -- and get him to tell me what steps he thinks he would like to see taken, when and by whom, and how I could help. Especially figuring out how to wrap things up in Iraq and keeping NATO from undermining the UN.
4. Bill Clinton The President really can't do too much one way or another about long-term policy, because he is a lame duck. But we are now six months away from Y2K. I'd like to have a chance to persuade him to sign executive orders on monetary and tax policy that I think would help us make it through the Y2K threshold. He could make a huge difference in hedging risks for the whole world by a few strokes of his pen.
5. Yasir Arafat I've been aware of the Middle East problem since I was a little boy growing up in Brooklyn, a Catholic in a Jewish neighborhood. I'd love to see it resolved in my lifetime and somehow always have believed the answer involved an economic path. Of all the Arabs, Arafat knows all the potential scenarios and chessmoves on the political path, a maze without end in what Harry Truman said in 1948 should be "a land of milk and honey." I might be able to suggest some things he has not thought about.
6. Alan Greenspan I've known Greenspan for 25 years and realized only recently that I really don't know him. The WSJournal in its Tuesday lead editorial, "The Greenspan Rule," finally came to the same conclusion. We have no idea what is going on in this man's mind, yet as Federal Reserve chairman, he wields more power, to do good or evil, than almost anyone on earth. There was a time when we would have one-on-one dinners, but when he got tired of my semi-public criticisms of the monetary deflation over which he now presides, that door closed. If we would have dinner, I would try to learn from him (a) his true thoughts on Y2K's impact on global finance, and (b) what he expects the world monetary system to look like ten years after his retirement.
7. George W. Bush I had a long lunch with "W" in 1988, when he invited me to Washington to find out how his father could make peace with the supply-siders. According to all the polls, he will waltz to the GOP nomination next year and go on to win a great landslide victory over Al Gore in November. I agree with Pat Buchanan that there is nothing any of us know about W that suggests he is ready to be President, although he will smooch a lot of little black kids -- as he does on the front page of today's NYTimes. I wonder what I'd find in a private dinner conversation.
8. Rupert Murdoch When I think of the proverbial Man of the World, Rupert comes to mind. I've chatted with him briefly a few times at Mike Milken's annual fundraisers in NYC for prostate cancer, but it would take a quiet seven-course dinner and at least three hours to tap into his global wisdom. He gave a speech on the state of the world two years ago that I caught on C-SPAN that was so far ahead of the Curve -- and so much better than the editorial positions of the newspapers he owns -- that it occurred to me he had intellectual assets that are going to waste, and I'd like to tap into them.
9. Saddam Hussein In the last decade, I've spent more hours reading about and thinking about Iraq and its leader, and where he came from and why he is what he is, than of anyone of equal size. Of all the demonized leaders on earth, Saddam seems the most complex, a fellow who came to power as a man of the people at a time when oil prices were quadrupling, surviving a long war against a country three times as big, Iran, the Gulf War against most of the world, and economic sanctions that have killed 1.4 million Iraqi civilians. And still he has the support of his people. At dinner, I'd try to get his take on how it all happened and how he thinks it might end.
10. Paul Johnson The most prolific historian of our time, Johnson takes on only huge projects, like the history of the Jews, the history of Christianity, the history of the American people, the 20th Century, thus far. I heard him hold forth almost 20 years ago, at a crowded lunch at the American Enterprise Institute, where he was visiting from his native England, and thought how I'd someday like to have him to myself. He footnotes my book The Way the World Works, in his Modern Times, about the Crash of 1929, but gets his economics all wrong and winds up buying Milton Friedman's line. At our dinner, I would straighten him out, so the last 30 years would make more sense to him, if he plans another big book on this era.