Washington lost one its venerable institutions this morning with the death of Godfrey "Budge" Sperling, a journalist in the capital for almost 60 years and the host of 3,241 newsmaker breakfasts.
Sperling, 97, was a reporter and columnist for the Christian Scientist Monitor. He was best known for his morning gatherings where top Washington journalists broke bread with the nation's powerful politicians, a roster that included four presidents.
His breakfasts, which he started in 1966 and hosted for three and a half decades, provided the stuff of big news before the advent of cable television and the 24-7 information flow.
It was at one of these events that former Michigan Governor George Romney, father of Mitt, lamented that he'd been "brainwashed" about the Vietnam War, effectively ending his presidential hopes. Robert F. Kennedy once used the venue to publicly express his torment over whether to run against President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. It was at a Sperling breakfast that Arkansas governor and presidential aspirant Bill Clinton, accompanied by Hillary, dismissed rumors of marital infidelities. It was also where House Speaker Newt Gingrich aired his hurt feelings about being given a bad seat on a trip aboard Air Force One.
Ted Kennedy's 1980 presidential quest was off to a bad start after he gave disjointed answers to questions about his policies and aspirations. His campaign hoped for a reset at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Sperling's first question to the Massachusetts senator was long and convoluted. His answer: "Budge, your questions sound like my answers."
Himself a Christian Scientist, Budge's longevity -- despite all those eggs -- was a testament to the virtues of not drinking, smoking or carousing. Those qualities, too, made him unique in Washington.
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