Tony Blair packs agenda for first visit to California
San Francisco Chief of Protocol Charlotte Schultz welcomes British
Prime Minister Tony Blair for his first visit to San Francisco.
Schultz and her husband, former U.S. Secretary of State George
Schultz, fete Blair today with a VIP studded dinner today.
Pool Photo by Kurt Rogers
By Carla Marinucci and John Wildermuth
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writers
Media Pool Coverage
July 29, 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair's first visit to California has a
bit of everything: serious environmental discussions, business
meetings, a foreign affairs speech -- and a star-powered, incredibly
eclectic gathering of world thinkers, leaders and luminaries in
posh Pebble Beach.
Pool Photo by Kurt Rogers
The tony, private event, a five-day management retreat for 250
executives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., is set to bring together
a VIP guest list for the ages to chat about issues like volunteerism,
technology and politics. Among them: Blair, Israeli Vice Premier
Shimon Peres, former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President
Al Gore, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Oakland A's general
manager Billy Beane, former Harvard University President Lawrence
Summers and even U2 lead singer and international do-gooder Bono.
Introducing Blair to the crowd on Sunday evening will be California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Republican governor will be celebrating
his birthday and is expected to be on hand with first lady Maria
Shriver at the event sponsored by Murdoch, a generous donor to
the GOP whose mega-corporation owns Fox News, 20th Century Fox,
DirecTV and 175 newspapers worldwide -- including the New York
Post -- with a total circulation of 40 million.
Sources say the governor -- engaged in a re-election campaign
-- won't pass up a chance to talk up California in his moment
on stage, but he's also just happy to be in the mix.
"There's no question that Gov. Schwarzenegger is a leader
on a variety of issues, obviously with regard to global warming
and the environment, and he's recognized as one of the country's
most innovative thinkers on a lot of topics,'' said Adam Mendelsohn,
communications director for the governor. "He's excited about
the opportunity to have all these dignitaries gathered in one
spot in his state and be able to participate.''
Some details have emerged about Blair's five days in California:
Today, the prime minister will dine in San Francisco with George
and Charlotte Shultz, the former secretary of state and current
state protocol chief, respectively, and he's also expected to
meet with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides.
Blair will tour San Francisco's Delancey Street rehabilitation
program on Sunday. On Monday, he is scheduled for a roundtable
discussion with business leaders and a news conference with Schwarzenegger
on global warming issues in Long Beach. On Tuesday, he is to address
the World Affairs Council. But after that address, Blair and Clinton
have added an event: They're expected to be at UCLA when London
Mayor Ken Livingstone and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
sign a city-to-city agreement on reducing greenhouse gases, sources
Still, what could be the most fascinating event of the schedule
will be mostly out of the public eye: Blair's visit to the retreat
held by Murdoch, the media mogul. A five-page memo leaked to the
Los Angeles Times this week said the very private retreat is being
held at the Inn at Spanish Bay in golf-rich Pebble Beach, where
attendees can work on their handicaps or hit some of the incredible
seminars on tap.
Among the offerings on the list, according to the Times, are
"Islam and the West" with Peres; "The Power of
One" by Bono; "Meet the MySpace Generation,'' a "live
focus group" exploring attitudes of today's youth; a talk
on America's political divide by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; nontraditional
business approaches by Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane
and even a town hall-style gathering presided over by Clinton,
who the Times said is appearing gratis -- without the usual $100,000
According to the Times, the attendees will be offered a choice
of nearly two dozen activities at the resort, where rooms go for
$995 a night.
To some activists, the visit of Blair -- and the hobnobbing with
other leaders -- masks some of the more serious issues confronting
his country, and America, on the world stage.
"I'd say shame on anyone celebrating Blair. ... Tony Blair
and Bush are war criminals, and they're responsible for the quagmire
we're in which is leading to so many deaths every day,'' said
Code Pink's Medea Benjamin, one of the country's most active protesters
against the war.
Benjamin was reached in Washington, where five Code Pink members
were arrested Friday outside the White House during a protest
of Blair's visit; she said the concern has led dozens of her organization's
members to engage in a hunger strike this month that has stretched
into 26 days.
"The Middle East is now exploding in even more violence,
and I'd attribute that to the policies (of) Bush and Blair and
how they've made us more hated around the world,'' she said.
Despite the hoopla surrounding Blair's trip -- and the retreat
-- Benjamin said there are serious issues at stake. "It's
sad to see somebody who could have played a positive role in this
country's history turning into a real lapdog of Bush,'' she said.
But News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher told the Times that the
retreat is intended to underscore responsibility and new ideas
for attendees. "The retreat is meant to provoke and broaden
their perspectives,'' he told the Times, "so they return
home more curious and informed about the world.''