The Magazine

One Hand Clapping

Leon Fleisher isn't the first rude White House guest.

Mar 24, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 27 • By JOE QUEENAN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

"The war in Vietnam I could tolerate," Bernstein later told Le Monde. "The whole guns-and-butter thing I could hold my nose at. But when Johnson refused to give in on the line-item veto, I didn't want anything to do with the guy. I'd rather die a thousand deaths than show up at the White House for dinner knowing that the president was screwing the whole country with the line-item veto. I'd never be able to show my face on Martha's Vineyard!"

Finally, there is the curious case of Pablo Casals, who was so enraged at Jimmy Carter's draconian energy policies that he left these shores for good.

"It's hard enough to play the cello at my age when the weather's nice," he explained to the New Yorker in 1979. "But the last time I was over at the White House, Carter was going around in his parka and electric mittens, turning all the thermometers down to 62. Chronic arthritis may be not be the most principled reason for turning down an invitation to dine with the president, but in this case, it will have to do!"

Joe Queenan is the author, most recently, of Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country.