Guess who’s not coming to dinner with Hu
Usually politicians flock to a high-profile event like moths to a flame.
But we’re learning that isn’t quite the style of the new Speaker of the House.
The White House is rolling out the red carpet for China’s President Hu Jintao with one of the most formal of all events — the State Dinner.
This will be only the third hosted by President Barack Obama during the two years of his presidency — the previous ones were for the leaders of India and Mexico.
But one person who will be a no-show for the dinner in honor of the leader of the Asian economic powerhouse is Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
An aide tells our congressional correspondent Susan Cornwell that Boehner has declined an invitation to the State Dinner with the Chinese leader, but that the Speaker would see Hu on Thursday at a meeting on Capitol Hill. The aide said Boehner rarely attends state dinners.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he didn’t know why Boehner declined the invite.
“I don’t know what their response was in declining the invitation,” Gibbs said. “We have invited — and this goes to previous state dinners — invited leaders from both parties. And we hope that because of the importance of the relationship that they would attend.”
Gibbs was repeatedly asked about the White House honoring Hu with a State Dinner despite concerns about China’s human rights record.
His response was that Obama believed it was important to engage and directly discuss such issues. “I think the president’s belief is it is important to speak out, as he’s done, and it’s important to bring this up directly with them.”
But the State Dinner was not likely to be the venue for such a discussion, Gibbs said. Rather it will be brought up in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room when the leaders meet, he said.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama attends State Dinner reception with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing, Nov. 17, 2009)