The Breakfast Table

Misplacing Parsley; Rehabbing Gore

Morning, Steve:

I promise to be a lady today, at least part of the time.

News from Microsoft today, center of the known universe, has 100 corporate leaders finishing a meeting with Chairman Bill Gates. This is Gates’ third annual CEO Summit, a gathering drawing execs from all over–people like Warren Buffett, Walt Disney’s Michael Eisner, Paul O’Neill of Alcoa, and Queen of Chintz Martha Stewart from Martha’s World or whatever she calls it.

The event is billed as a crash course in technology. Gates told the executives most companies don’t come close to reaching their potential in using new technology.

Martha Stewart, preternaturally grouchy with the press, was grouchy with the press. At a news conference yesterday, someone asked about lunch menus. She let ‘em have it: “It wears a little thin when people constantly ask me (at meetings like this) what we’re having for lunch. Our e-commerce business is alive and well and thriving, and the information I’m gathering here will help me add value.”

The highlight was last night’s dinner at Gates’ zillion-dollar mansion on Lake Washington. The Seattle Times reporter got the scoop on the menu: local baby lettuce with herbed goat cheese, and slow-roasted halibut with asparagus and potatoes.

If Gates had really liked his guests, he would have served Copper River salmon, the thick, sumptuous Alaskan salmon popular this time of year. But it’s $18.99 a pound at the market, and with so many mouths to feed …

Can you imagine Martha Stewart pursing her lips at the dinner, trying to not to blurt out things like the napkins don’t match the tablecloths or the sprig of parsley should be placed at the 2 o’clock position on the plate, not 8 o’clock?

Speaking of misplaced parsley, it looks like the rehabilitation of Al Gore is under way. Can Al Gore be saved? Newsweek has a flattering piece on him, casting the veep as Tipper’s lifetime partner, not someone taking dictation from Bill Clinton. He is still understandably miffed about Clinton’s dumb call to the New York Times drawing attention to the weaknesses of the Gore campaign.

Please tell me this isn’t a fake fight.

What do you make of growing cracks in the NATO alliance over Kosovo? I lived in Italy for six months two years ago, and I have been expecting Italy to do something quirky. I see the Italian Parliament yesterday voted to seek a halt in the bombing.

As for underrated and overrated columnists, I was dodging you because I didn’t have time to think about it. Let me clarify. I like Dowd and Lewis. I guess they’re rated about right. I think the most overrated columnist is George Will, who hasn’t written anything great outside of baseball and this week’s well-deserved tribute to Meg Greenfield, the Washington Post editorial page editor and Newsweek columnist.

Brill’s Content ranked Will among the lowest in terms of pundit accuracy.

I think Abe Rosenthal grows sillier by the day. But nobody expects much from him. Mark Shields is underrated. He is one of the smartest, most reasonable writers out there.

So, send me your list of writers who don’t deserve a byline.