Bob Carr was thrilled when Henry Kissinger invited him to join a camping trip in the woods last year. And not just any old camping trip. It was part of the weirdest ritual in American elite politics, the Bohemian Grove festival held annually since 1872.Carr's tourism costly to diplomacy
About 2700 of America's rich and powerful camp under mighty Californian redwood trees in a forest north of San Francisco for the last two weeks of July. It's been described as ''midsummer frolics of the titans of the military-industrial complex''.
In a famous 1989 account for Spy magazine, Philip Weiss wrote: ''You know you are inside the Bohemian Grove when you come down a trail in the woods and hear piano music from amid a group of tents and then round a bend to see a man with a beer in one hand and his penis in the other, urinating into the bushes.
''This is the most gloried-in ritual of the encampment, the freedom of powerful men to pee wherever they like.''
There are talks on all manner of topics, artistic performances and 7am gin fizzes. Cameras are banned. So are women.
Carr shared one of the rustic wood cabins with Stephen Bechtel, the 87-year-old co-owner of the Bechtel Corporation, a $30 billion-a-year construction and engineering behemoth.
Carr, steeped in American Civil War history, stepped out onto the balcony of his cabin one evening. He fancied himself to be in a scene from the Civil War era with fires burning, music playing and people cavorting, he said later.
Carr spent three days at Bohemian Grove. As socio-political tourism, it was a brilliant experience. But Carr would have been wiser to spend no days there. As diplomacy, it was foolish.
While Bohemian Grove is not exclusively a Republican crowd, it's overwhelmingly one. Notoriously so. Bill Clinton described it as the event where ''all those rich Republicans go up and stand naked against redwood trees''.
January 12, 2014
Bob Carr hobnobbing, back in the day: the freedom of powerful men to pee wherever they like
Bob Carr has left the stage, but by gosh he had fun at our expense when he was relevant, didn't he?