At a time the United States is more politically and culturally divided than ever, President Trump is holding his first state dinner for the French president in a way that emphasizes those divisions and is exclusionary to the point it flouts tradition.
“This dinner will…showcase America’s bitter political divide, and the president’s willingness to flout well-worn norms, even for something as seemingly trivial as a dinner guest-list,” reports Politico.
Unlike President Obama, who invited a cross-section of America and Washinton’s elite to his state dinners, Trump has chosen a smaller venue and a more select guest list.
Where Obama had Republicans as well as Democrats, Trump is only inviting Republicans.
And unlike Obama who brought media leaders to the events, especially those from the guests home country Trump has chosen not to invite any members of the press to attend.
“It is a break with tradition,” Lea Berman, White House social secretary under George W. Bush and author of the etiquette guide “Treating People Well” written with Obama social secretary Jeremy Bernard.
“A lot of traditions are not being as closely honored as they have been in the past,” Bernard, adding: “It certainly doesn’t add any feeling of harmony, that’s for sure.”
The last time an American president held a state dinner for a French president was Obama’s event in Feb. 2014 for Francois Hollande.
The event for about 350 people under a tent on the White House lawn featured entertainment by Mary J. Blige and the guest list included actor Bradley Cooper, who speaks French, and media chiefs from the New York Times, CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press and several correspondents from French media outlets.
This time not a single member of the Democratic Congressional leadership is being invited, but many Republicans, including outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are among the handful of elected officials on the guest list.
No doubt most of Trump’s children will be on the guest list.
In another unusual move, this dinner for 150 is not being planned by an outside professional event firm, as has been the case under President Obama.
The event planning is being done by First Lady Melania Trump and her staff, who her social secretary says have been working on it for months.
She has had plenty of time, since this is the first Trump state dinner in the 15 months he has been in office, compared to President Obama who had his first dinner months after taking office.
When Democrats have chosen not to vote for Republican legislation and nominees, or to be supportive of Trump’s many executive orders, the president has been quick to complain that they are uncooperative and that they are blocking things important to America.
Of course, Democrats usually have good reasons to oppose policies and actions that are highly partisan, a giveaway to business, a disaster for the environment and in many cases plain illegal.
However, that is still no excuse for Trump to ignore a rare event where he can be bipartisan and show he represents all Americans in front of a foreign leader who has done exactly that in his country – bringing together different factions and age groups.
Trump for all of his bragging about his skills as a politician is really not very smart about how to build a consensus or bring a divided nation together, and he has chosen something as minor as a state dinner to showcase everything he does that pulls us apart,
At least Melania is finally doing something to justify the millions spent on her housing, travel, and lifestyle, so it will be interesting to see just how this “little” event comes out.