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Book Launch: <i>The Washington Diaries: 1981-1989</i>

Allan Gotlieb, Canada's ambassador to the United States under Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Brian Mulroney, related his experiences dealing with the Reagan administration, the U.S. Congress, and the American foreign-policy establishment.

Date & Time

Jan. 16, 2007
3:00pm – 4:00pm

Book Launch: <i>The Washington Diaries: 1981-1989</i>

Author and journalist Christopher Ogden will have a conversation with Allan Gotlieb about his experiences as Canada's Ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1989. Click HERE to see the invitation.

In The Washington Diaries: 1981-1989, Allan Gotlieb, Canada's ambassador to the United States under Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Brian Mulroney, relates his experiences dealing with the Reagan administration, the U.S. Congress, and the American foreign-policy establishment. His account describes his pioneering role as an advocate of public diplomacy and vigorous lobbying in order to promote Canadian interests on issues such as softwood lumber and free trade. The diaries provide a revealing insight into social Washington and the strategies he and his wife Sondra pursued to turn the Canadian embassy into a unique meeting-ground for the principal political players in Washington. At his parties and official events, Allan Gotlieb met everyone from Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post, Secretary of State George Shultz, to Donald Sutherland, Wayne Gretzky, and many other luminaries.

Quotes from the book:

March 18, 1983 Called on George Bush to brief him before his official trip to Ottawa next week. I also saw Marty Feldstein in order to learn about his recent European trip with Bush. They are peddling the latest U.S. enthusiasm: restrict the sale of oil and gas equipment to Russia as a major potential supplier.

This is the kind of thing the ideologists in the Reagan administration keep coming up with, always adding new strains to our relations. Given their lousy state, maybe the Bush visit to Ottawa will do some good, but I still think it should come later, after the cruise issue has been settled one way or another.

When I called on the vice-president in the Old Executive Office, I found him extremely courteous, as always, making me feel very welcome and at ease. I briefed him about the political situation in Canada, especially as it affects the issue of cruise-missile testing. Unlike the rest of the Reaganauts, Bush likes and admires Trudeau. But what influence does he have on the president and his advisers? We know the answer to that.

February 4, 1983 In Ottawa to attend the third meeting of the Group of Foreign Policy Advisers. The theme was the famous or infamous Third Option. I spoke of the need for the Prostitute Option -– getting into bed with the United States. "Let's make special arrangements with our major trading partners; let's get whatever special deals we can. Forget the old clichés about multilateralism; if we aren't willing to scramble, we could be left out in the cold. ... We're going to see a world of exploding competition, greater trade restrictions, and expanding preferential economic blocs."

Everyone managed to misunderstand me. One eminent colleague from the foreign ministry said, "But if we make special deals with the Americans, we'll lose respect in the Third World." I give him credit for the most fatuous statement I've heard in the Pearson Building (and I've heard plenty). MacEachen asked me, "Are you advocating that Canada abandon free trade, the international rules, and the multilateral system?" "No," I replied, "I'm advocating we not be the last member of the Boy Scouts Club."

April 13, 1986 We flew into New York last night to attend the (Arianna) Stassinopoulos-(Michael) Huffington wedding given by Ann Getty at the Metropolitan Club. Not too clear why we were invited. It was a strange scene. A half-dozen or so aging bridesmaids, including Barbara Walters and Lucky Roosevelt, shuffled down the aisle in identical lavender dresses. The ceremony was bizarre. Kissinger said, "There was every kind of ritual except Aztec."

I chatted with the great Kissinger. "I am astonished," he said, "at how you get around." He was recently speaking to "an important Canadian" and told him "what an outstanding job I was doing. "But," said Kissinger, "I can't remember whom it was I was talking to." Then a little later he commented to me, "Now I can remember whom I was talking to, but I cannot tell you his name. All I can say is that the conversation I had with this person will be very helpful to you."

I thought afterwards, how very Kissingerian. He created a mystery and thus made himself very interesting. He also placed me, or at least this is the implication, in debt. This explains to me how Kissinger is Kissinger.

Critical Acclaim:

"This is the most insightful book about how Washington works since Henry Adams's classic Democracy, which didn't skimp on the vicissitudes of Washington's social life either. These Washington diaries reveal the U.S. capital's narrowness, pettiness and self-absorption in all its raw beauty and horror."
— Globe and Mail

"[A] compulsively readable memoir stuffed with anecdotes about the movers and shakers of the Reagan/Mulroney era."
— National Post

"A virtuoso performance of style and insight. Anyone who cares about Canada-U.S. relations, Canadian foreign policy and the nature of U.S. government should read it. . . . The mundane, ridiculous, significant and crucial, issues long forgotten and still around, weave their threads through the tapestry of The Washington Diaries, a riveting record of him, them and us."
— Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail

"As gripping ... as a John le Carré spy thriller."
— Ottawa Citizen

Hosted By

Canada Institute

Bound by common geopolitical interests and strong economic and cultural ties, Canada and the United States enjoy the world's most successful bilateral relationship. The Wilson Center's Canada Institute is the only public policy forum in the world dedicated to the full spectrum of Canada-U.S. issues. The Canada Institute is a global leader for policymakers, academics and business leaders to engage in non-partisan, informed dialogue about the current and future state of the relationship.     Read more


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