John McCaslin

That was former Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, shaking hands yesterday with Chilean Ambassador Mariano Fernandez at Ceiba restaurant on 14th Street in Northwest before the two went to their separate tables, the former lunching with his new lobbying partner, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

Mr. Breaux and Mr. Lott, along with their sons Chet Lott and John B. Breaux Jr., earlier this year launched the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, peddling strategic advice, consulting and lobbying to a wide range of clients.

As for Chile's ambassador to the U.S., who has been in his diplomatic post for nearly two years, he moved into Ceiba's private dining room, where he hosted a Chilean culinary lunch for invited guests. And what impresses the ambassador most about Washington?

"One, it's the most important capital of the world," answered Mr. Fernandez, raving about the history and beauty of the city, the lack of skyscrapers, the many museums and the wealth of fine dining.

As for politics, he told Inside the Beltway that he has just finished writing an Op-Ed for a Chilean newspaper about the 2008 U.S. presidential election, which he finds "fascinating."

"There are so many different contexts," he noted. "For the first time since [John F.] Kennedy, you will have a senator as your president. For the first time, you have a black candidate, [Barack] Obama, and a woman candidate, [Hillary Rodham] Clinton. You have one of the oldest candidates ever, [John] McCain, who defied all the forecasts of the polls. This is such a lively democracy."

Tutu weighs in

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, says blacks and whites remain divided in the U.S., that race has become a huge issue in the presidential campaign, and that many voters are supporting candidates based on the color of their skin.

And as for the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Democratic hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, Archbishop Tutu says: "You might be shocked to discover that he's articulating the views of very many who haven't had the chance of that kind of exposure. And instead of hearing what he is saying, again, people are trying to gain political capital."

The archbishop made his comments in an interview over the weekend with WTVC-TV NewsChannel 9 in Chattanooga, Tenn., coinciding with a sermon Archbishop Tutu delivered at the nearby University of the South in Sewanee during commencement ceremonies.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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