Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Braving the weather

President Barack Obama quipped that Chinese President Hu Jintao was brave for going to his hometown at this time of year. But what about the visit to Capitol Hill today?

Between the warm reception at the White House and the chilly weather in Chicago, Hu met lawmakers who were quite cool in their welcome. They brought up China’s currency, human rights, the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner who wasn’t allowed to attend the ceremony, Tibet, the economy and trade. USA-CHINA/

“The U.S. and China do not share values and principles as some have claimed in recent days,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry summed up the uneasiness that still accompanies the U.S.-China relationship: “It’s critical that leaders in both countries don’t allow mutual suspicions to degenerate into fear-mongering and demagoguery.”

Vice President Joe Biden, caught in the hallway by our senior congressional correspondent Tom Ferraro, told Reuters the Chinese understood they needed to work on the currency dispute. “They indicate that they understand that — that they have to work on it,” he said.

Panda diplomacy: the remix

USAThe latest chapter in the long story of panda diplomacy was written at Washington’s National Zoo, where the Chinese government agreed to lengthen the “loan” of popular panda pair Mei Xiang and Tian Tian for another five years. Actually, the loan is conditioned on whether they produce a new heir or heiress to the cuteness of panda-dom in the next two years;  one or both could be exchanged for more fecund substitutes.

They have a good track record: Washington native Tai Shan, born in 2005, headed back to China last year.

This was a big enough deal for President Barack Obama to mention it at an elaborate state dinner at the White House for Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Partisan politics at the state dinner party

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.”

Hu’s state dinner menu as American as apple pie – corrected

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The White House usually pays tribute to its state dinner guests by planning menus that pay homage to the visitors’ country.  But the Chinese delegation wanted an American experience — which they are getting in spades on Monday Wednesday night.

The state dinner menu features Maine lobster, steak and potatoes and apple pie with vanilla ice cream, accompanied by an array of U.S. wines. And the entertainment is “An Evening of Jazz,”  the uniquely American musical form.

Here is the menu:

    D’Anjou Pear salad with Farmstead Goat Cheese, fennel, black walnuts and white balsamic vinegar Poached Maine lobster with orange glaze carrots and black trumpet mushrooms, served with a Dumol Chardonnay “Russian River” 2008 Lemon Sorbet Dry-aged rib eye with buttermilk crisp onions, double-stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach, accompanied by  Quilceda Creek Cabernet “Columbia Valley” 2005 Old-fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream, served with Poet’s Leap Riesling “Botrytis” 2008

The two previous state dinners hosted by the White House have taken place in tents erected on the building’s lawn, but Wednesday night’s was held entirely inside, with tables erected in the Blue Room, Red Room and State Dining Room for dinner, and the evening’s enertainment in the East Room.

One Washington day is not like another for Mr. Hu

USA-CHINA/China’s President Hu Jintao was feted with full fanfare at the White House on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, honor guards and a state dinner. Things might not be quite so fancy on Thursday when he goes to Capitol Hill.

There he will see Republican Speaker John Boehner in the House of Representatives, then cross the Capitol to meet Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither bothered to attend Wednesday’s state dinner.

Also attending the House and Senate meetings will be several other lawmakers who want a word with Hu about human rights in China, as well as China’s dealings with Iran and Chinese trade practices.

Washington Extra – Modern pursuits

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he’s using modern technology like a BlackBerry and Kindle, when he didn’t even have a cellphone at the White House.

“I’m not totally modern. I still write long-hand and don’t use a computer for that kind of thing,” Cheney said in an NBC interview. “My grandchildren still laugh at me,” he said, and his 3-year-old grandson showed him how to play the Angry Birds game on an iPad. USA-CHINA/

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, while sticking to their well-trod positions on healthcare, did refrain from aiming big slingshots at opponents. (Angry Birds fans, that’s for you).

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.

OBAMA-CHINA/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.

Obama, Hu share moment of silence for dead miners

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao interrupted their high-powered diplomacy on Monday to share a moment of silence in memory of the miners who have died in recent accidents in both countries. NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/

Obama paused during vital talks ranging from sanctions against Iran to China’s yuan currency on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit to tell Hu about the 29 miners lost in a mine blast in West Virginia last week.

Recalling 85 miners had also died in China’s Shanxi province in the last 10 days, Obama asked both delegations to take a moment to honor the dead, the White House said.

How to ease traffic tie-ups in Washington: hold a nuclear security summit

There’s nuclear security, and then there’s street security. NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/OBAMA

High-level delegations from nearly 50 countries gathered in Washington to talk, talk, talk, and talk some more about keeping the world safe from nuclear terrorism at the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Barack Obama.

That in turn required Washington to cope with ensuring the safety of the world leaders gathered to mull world security.

Ripple effect: Plenty of local scare talk about street closings, traffic tie-ups and nightmare commutes that kept many people off downtown streets on Monday, the first day of the two-day summit.