By Eric Heyl
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
My concern for your jewelry ultimately made it an easy call.
I’m sure that after seeing Russian President Vladimir Putin step one of his Russian presidential toes into the waters of column writing, many of you were wondering: Would he be invited to speak at next year’s NSNC conference in Washington?
The idea admittedly was tempting. We’ve had an array of fascinating panelists over the years, but we’ve never had a head of state discuss the difficulties of churning out a column offering foreign policy advice to America on deadline.
So conceptually, the concept was intriguing. So was the related thought of persuading Putin to fork over some rubles to help sponsor the event. But the currency exchange rate was unfavorable, and “Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government Proudly Present the 2014 National Society of Newspaper Columnists Conference” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Then there was the matter of the jewelry. You might recall that in June, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft accused Putin of pocketing his Super Bowl ring during a meeting between the two of them in 2005.
Putin strongly denied he had swiped Kraft’s bling. But really, can the former head of the KGB be trusted to answer honestly? I couldn’t have everyone at our D.C. soiree nervously wondering if Putin would sneak into their room and rifle through the drawers five minutes after he was done speaking. That would distract from the valuable insights offered by the other panelists.
So Putin’s a no-go. Sorry. But I can assure you that we’re assembling such a high quality group of speakers that you won’t even notice his absence. We’ll be announcing the entire roster when it’s closer to being finalized.
What I can announce is we’ve selected the site of next year’s conference, which will occur June 26-29: the Washington Plaza Hotel.
There were a number of reasons why we chose this place. It’s a scant four miles
from Reagan International Airport, so cab fare to and from the hotel should be a bit more reasonable than we’ve experienced at some past conferences (cough, Hartford, cough).
Centrally located in Thomas Circle, the Washington Plaza also is ideal for those who want to do a bit of sightseeing while they’re in D.C. It’s within walking distance of the White House, the National Geographic Society, Verizon Center and the International Spy Museum — imagine the tour he could have led for us there.
Hotel rates in the heart of D.C. typically top $200 a night, but there’s no way your pals at the palatial NSNC headquarters would ever expect you to pay that. The negotiations with the hotel were tense at times, and we had to promise to send the manager a canned ham at Christmas, but we finally were able to lock in a room rate of $149.
Even Putin would agree that’s a fantastic deal. You should plan to be with us in June. With no invitation being extended to Mr. Sticky Fingers, your jewelry should be perfectly safe.