The Breakfast Table

Good Guests, Bad Guests, and Little Leaguers


Since you were kind enough to ask how my Little Leaguers fared, I won’t make you wait for the answer. We got the game in thanks to a brief break in our Seattle-like weather, and lost a nail-biter, 4-2. But our team (consisting of 11- and 12-year-old boys and named–surprise–the Cubs) played the best they’ve played all season, so I was proud of them. I’d say we have several potential Griffeys. If my son Keith is one of them, I can promise you I won’t let him sign with the Mariners.

The answer to the question of whether I try to teach good citizenship or try to win is: both, though we’ve done better at the former than the latter. I do my best to stay calm and encouraging even when things are going badly. I suspect your husband does, too. He probably was not quoting the Little League code of conduct on the occasion you mentioned–he was probably reminding the team that outfielders have to throw to the relay man, infielders have to cover their bases, and someone has to back up every throw. Failure to do such things can turn singles into three-run homers and make coaches feel that all their efforts have been in vain. How did your husband’s team do last night?

I’ve been trying to think of a favorite visitor to our boardroom, but it’s easier to think of obnoxious ones. Second to Benny Begin, I think, is the former Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone, who came through several years ago after leaving office on what one of my colleagues called “an international bad-will tour.” I savor the memory of him noting, with an air of smug arrogance, that Japan was undergoing some economic troubles–growth was down to a mere 4 percent. His point was that Japan in its bad years was more economically vital than the United States in its good years. I sure wish he would come back now to elaborate on the subject. Bill Bradley was not offensive, but he struck me about the way he struck you.

I do have some favorites, I suppose. Charlene Barshefsky, the U.S. Trade Representative, who was in last fall, came across as a devout free-trader and a formidable negotiator. Robert Rubin was in a couple of times and was smart, funny, and charmingly adept at ducking questions he didn’t want to answer. Give me a week and maybe I can think of more. Of course, these impressions may not be reliable. Everyone thought highly of Mexican President Carlos Salinas when he came in during the NAFTA push, and you see how that turned out. And one of the most impressive people I ever interviewed for our candidate endorsements was Mel Reynolds, who got our endorsement, eventually got to Congress, and finally ended up in … federal prison.

The local news here is that a death-row inmate was exonerated yesterday–the 12th since we restored capital punishment in 1977, which just happens to equal the number executed. Does the State of Washington have this problem?