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“POLITICAL SATIRE BECAME obsolete,” Tom Lehrer quipped, “when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” 

That was years ago, 1972, though both of these guys are still around; Lehrer is 92; Kissinger, 97.

An article in the London Review of Books, December 3, 2020, prompted my remembering this great Lehrer line. David Runciman’s “Don’t be a Kerensky!” reviews two new books on Kissinger. And, typical of LRB articles, the review is replete with great lines of its own. Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are Kissinger tidbits as well as Internet sleuthing on Lehrer’s comment.  

Lehrer’s Quip. Interviewed by the Onion in 2000, satirist/songwriter/mathematician Tom Lehrer said, “I heard that quoted back to me, but I’ve also heard it quoted that I was dead, so there you are. You can’t believe everything you read.”

“It was just a remark about political satire, because it was true,” Lehrer continued. “Not literally, but everything is so weird in politics that it’s very hard to be funny about it…. Years ago, it was much easier: We had Eisenhower to kick around. That was much funnier than Nixon.”

Above, The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and his World, by Barry Gewen, Norton, 2020. Below, Henry Kissinger and American Power, by Thomas A. Schwartz, Hill and Wang, 2020.

Why More Kissinger Books? Runciman writes, “This latest pair, by Barry Gewen and Thomas Schwartz, have moved beyond outrage to something more like bafflement, tinged with affection.… The answer is because he tantalises them, suggesting a mystery that remains unsolved.”

Kissinger Bio Bits. In 1938, Heinz became Henry when the Kissinger family fled Nazi Germany. Runciman says, “Kissinger rose by his own efforts, working in a shaving brush factory during the day, studying accountancy by night at the City College of New York.”

Runciman continues, “The army was the making of him: recruited to military intelligence, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was the chief administrator of the city of Krefeld during the American advance into Germany in 1945. He was just 21.”

After the war Kissinger went to Harvard, and earned a Ph.D. (his topic: 19th-century statesmen: the Anglo-Irish Viscount Castlereagh and the Austrian Prince Klemens von Metternich).

Henry Alfred Kissinger, Bavaria-born 1923, American diplomat, statesman, and foreign affairs consultant.

Wikipedia notes, “A practitioner of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977.

On a personal note, Henry is married to Nancy née Maginnes, New York City-born 1934. They live in Connecticut and New York City.

A personal note of my own. I shared a Paris/New York Concorde flight with Ms. Kissinger back in 1993. It was my only SST flight; I suspect this tall (6-ft.) elegant woman flew it regularly. On the other hand, I cannot say she ever sat in the SST flight deck.

Tomorrow in Part 2 we return to more serious matters, including Kissinger and Nixon, the opera Nixon in China, and Kissinger as Super K. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021  

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