Tales from the Trail

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.”

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.

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


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.

Inquisition begins over state dinner gatecrashing

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan looked like he was having a bad day as he sat facing a firing USA/squad of lawmakers determined to find out how the vaunted Secret Service could allow uninvited guests into the White House and even into a receiving line to shake hands with President Barack Obama.

“I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times over this past week,” Sullivan told the House Homeland Security Committee when asked how Tareq and Michaele Salahi were allowed to talk their way into the White House for last week’s state dinner although they were not on the guest list.

“Do I like to see this? Believe me, we are beating ourselves up over this,” said Sullivan, who looked like he could use a good night’s sleep and seemed to have a 5 o’clock shadow even at 10 a.m.

White House defends social secretary in gate-crasher flap, couple declines to testify

INDIA-USA/White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today defended the White House social secretary, Desiree Rogers, in the controversy surrounding how a Virginia couple managed to wangle their way into President Barack Obama’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week.

It has been noted in news accounts that no one from the social secretary’s office was at the gate helping the Secret Service identify guests and making sure people not on the list did not get inside.

Gibbs noted that for the crush of holiday parties that have just begun at the White House, procedures have been changed to ensure someone from the social office is at the gate.