Cissy was standing beside Blaise. She was almost as red-faced as he, and even across the room, Timothy could hear the growl of her laughter. Cissy was a reluctant supporter of the Roosevelt Administration while Blaise had been, more often than not, a critic of the New Deal. But on September 1, Germany had invaded Poland. Two days later, England and France had declared war on the aggressor; and the New Deal was history. There was now only one issue: should the United States cease to be neutral and help finance England in the war against Germany? Cissy was beginning to revert to her family's isolationist roots; her cousin Bertie McCormick's Chicago Tribune had already declared war on both the President and the British Empire, while her brother, Robert Patterson, creator of the New York Daily News, was, true to the family's Irish heritage, no friend to England. Timothy himself was less provincial than these great Irish publishers, possibly because, unlike the McCormick-Patterson clan, he had been brought up poor enough to have no passionate interest in anything but himself.
"Basically," he heard himself saying to Frederika, "it's got to be a pretty neutral documentary. L. B. Mayer says I have to be fair to all the people who want us in the war and to all the ones who don't. I'm not to offend a single ticket-buyer."
"What do you want?" Frederika's practiced vague stare suddenly focused on Timothy as he took a glass of ginger ale from a passing waiter.
"I'm neutral. Pretty much," he added.
"Like America!" Frederika laughed. "Come say hello to Blaise. He's delighted you're making this film. Just as long as you do it entirely his way."
"He changes from day to day. We've got three thousand English people here in town, all working out of the embassy."
"To get us into the war?"
"Splendid party, Mrs. Sanford!" A huge, dark-haired, ruddy-faced Englishman complimented his hostess while giving Timothy the swift Washington lizard's gaze that asked two simultaneous questions: Who are you? Can I use you?
Frederika introduced Timothy to John Foster. "He's . . . what at the embassy?"
Excerpted from The Golden Age by Gore Vidal Copyright© 2000 by Gore Vidal. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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