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“By your friends shall ye be known”.

I dreamed a dream. Dinner with the President, Tonight, White House, Black Tie, just friends, no masks.

A last minute invite – but aren’t they so often just the best.

Brazil’s President* sat by – still no mask, fresh from heroic survival of the virus – surprisingly slight for an aspiring dictator. Trump grinning, came in with Putin*, grinning too – he has a job for life in Russia. As the night wore on and the sun sank over the lawns, Vlad became shameless fun, rocking with laughter at falsified voting and stifled criticism. It is so much easier to be a despot, better for everyone. Pop stars, comedians and state governors will not sleep easy any more – life was never meant to be a free lunch.

President Erdogan*, tall and stiff at first. It has been a tough year even for an autocrat rolling back history at the Hagia Sophia to make Turkey Great Again. A 500 year reversal is not for boys. Trump had done his homework – “Congratulations”- was all he had to say, but it was enough. Recep smiled and replied “God is great”. Much talk of celebrating the historical status of the monuments that really matter. Mehmed 11 held his first Friday prayers in the Hagia Sophia in 1453, three days after seizing control of Constantinople. “Things don’t get much greater than that”, said Andrzj Duda* fresh from the “terrific job’ he is doing in Poland. Ante liberal, ante gay, frankly defiantly ante anything that does not make Poland Great Again. “I think you have an election soon”, quipped our host “I don’t think he needs my help.”  “We won going away last week, ” replied Duda, rapier quick.

Trump grinned. Did he hear? Is he really deaf? – “We have a very good personal relationship” he said.

And absent friends. It was sad that President Thaci of Kosovo* could not come  – unexpectedly indicted on 10 counts of war crimes by a special court in the Netherlands. Big friends are hard to replace. Roger Stone* had filled the gap already. Overdressed like a flapper from the past, grinning and free again to shop and flap once more. And then the Attorney General*, our evening butler scarcely moving in his too tight DJ, all place cards, canapes and cocktail orders.

Angela Merkle and Justin Trudeau had both begged off.

  Without them, without the other tiresome democratic allies, it became an unforgettable hour. We were far from the irritating statistics of John Hopkins, the gruff nay saying of Dr Fauci – “we have responsibility for the entire planet” – did he really say that?

The Host frowned and heaved his shoulders with a sigh. Here was the warmth, laughter, bonhomie and backslapping humor of dear and mighty friends. This was where he belonged.

For me it was unreal to be there amongst the dictators – if only in  a dream.

Have a good day, James.

*Our White House was in close contact with these men over the last few weeks – not so much with the others!