I spent three days in Aspen at the Ideas Festival. A curious experience. It’s been called Washington D.C.’s summer camp, and it’s full of policy wonks, pundits, and politicians, both active and retired. The politicos get to network, and the affluent audience gets to rub shoulders and point their I-phones at the politicos, so everyone’s happy. And everyone is happy, the atmosphere is relentlessly upbeat. Of course, none of the public figures really lets their hair down. Robert Rubin gave the same speech I heard him deliver two years ago. The British ambassador was hopeful about Libya—but what else could he say? Listening to Tom Friedman was just like reading Tom Friedman. Arianna Huffington was, well, Arianna Huffington. I enjoyed hearing Leon Wieseltier opine on Israel and the Arab spring, but then he’s neither a pundit nor a think tanker. In 1974, I was invited to speak at an Aspendesign festival. The atmosphere today strikes me as more about business than about ideas. Lots of corporate sponsors, lots of media personalities. “It’s like three days of Charlie Rose,” someone said to me, “but with really nice berries.” The food is very good, but for this audience it better be—they’re used to getting what they want. Am I becoming a Things Used To Be Better person? I hope not–but in this case they were.

Private jets at Aspen airport


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