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French Salt Peanuts and Brits Toast An Obama Book

Thank god for Washington lobbyists (wink, wink).

The King of K Street, Tommy Boggs, and his powerhouse lobbying firm hosted an exclusive bash last night at the French ambassador's residence in honor of Washington's Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, which Boggs helped make possible.

His firm, Patton Boggs, is the big sponsor of the festival, which draws huge crowds for live jazz venues all over town. The New Orleans native was his usual gracious, charming self even as he lamented privately to a few guests about the Obama White House's ban on lobbyists. Well, ban on certain lobbyists.

Boggs says some of his best and brightest have been prevented from working in the new administration, even as other lobbyists inexplicably have been exempted from the restrictions. He probably would have gone on further had he not had to dash off to catch New Orleans' new congressman, Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao. Cao defeated indicted former congressman William Jefferson, whose corruption trial began this week.

Guests at the ambassador's residence, a French-style chateau, were treated to an intimate concert by Cuban American clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera and 14-year-old prodigy Tony Madruga on piano. When the whimsical D'Rivera instructed the audience how to join in on "Salt Peanuts," jazz composer and teacher Ellis Marsalis, who was in the audience, joked, "I'm going to do like Jimmy Carter." (He was referring to the time in 1978 when President Carter sang "Salt Peanuts" on stage with Dizzy Gillespie at the White House Jazz Festival.)

Others who were there (at a buffet dinner, with forks -- not toothpicks) included: Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.); Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.); Brent Glass, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History; Yelberton "Yebbie" Watkins, chief of staff to House Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Dave Grimaldi, Clyburn's new chief counsel; and Post sketch writer Dana Milbank and his wife, Donna DePasquale.

The Sleuth swung by the jazz event at the French ambassador's chateau after attending a book party celebrating Richard Wolffe's new bestseller, "Renegade," at the British Embassy.

The party for Wolffe, a Brit who has covered American politics for several years, was co-hosted by British ambassador Nigel Sheinwald and NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory. But Gregory couldn't be there last night, according to his wife, Beth Wilkinson, because he was commanded by his uber-boss, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, to speak to the board of GE. (Probably would have been tough to get out of that one.)

Wolffe mentioned that the entire idea for his book about the Obama presidential campaign came from a "skinny senator" from Illinois. "It may not be the definitive version but I hope it's close," Wolffe told the crowd.

Notably absent (besides Wolffe's ex-Newsweek editors) were Obama staffers, who were invited instead to Wolffe's first book party a few weeks ago at his friend Jose Andres's Café Atlantico restaurant.

Among the roughly 150 guests who were at the British Embassy bash: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers; Christopher Hitchens and his wife, Carol Blue; NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker; MSNBC's David Shuster; Mark Leibovich; Maureen Dowd (who Wolffe describes in the acknowledgments of his book as "our very own Dorothy Parker in red cowboy boots"); former ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, who's now at the State Department with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton; "Meet the Press" producer Betsy Fischer; Politico's Roger Simon and Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz.

And even one notable Bushie was there: John Bellinger, the former State Department counselor under Condoleezza Rice.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 12, 2009; 7:40 AM ET
 
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