Partisan politics at the state dinner party

By Reuters Staff
January 20, 2011

streisandReuters’ Wendell Marsh was there as the guests arrived for President Obama’s state dinner honoring Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The evening might have been filled with glamour, but it did take place in Washington, so it was naturally marked by a few comments on partisan politics.

Democratic U.S. Senator John Kerry told members of the media that it was time to tone down recent heated political rhetoric. “You can’t come here with a scorched earth policy and expect to do the nation’s business and serve our greater interest.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, waxed diplomatic. “It’s a great night for our country,” he said as he walked in.” We are Americans and we are honored to be here.”

But he was aware that he was one of only a few Republicans to accept the invitation from the Democratic White House.

“It just makes me unique once again,” he told reporters.

Some Republican notables were most notable for  their absence.

Ohio’s John Boehner, the new Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, declined the invitation, saying he was meeting with Hu Thursday on Capitol Hill. He has been invited to all three of Obama’s state dinners, and has stayed away every time.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also declined his state dinner invitation, he cited logistical reasons. But then again, so did the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat.

But not everyone made a political comment.

Hollywood’s Barbra Streisand, known as an ardent supporter of Democratic politicians, deadpanned when she was asked why she was invited: “I worked in a Chinese restaurant.”

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (Barbara Streisand and husband James Brolin) REUTERS/Jim Bourg (Obamas greet Hu at state dinner)

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