Clinton’s Last Supper: A Hot Ticket for Indian-Americans

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • September 19, 2000

by Karen Feld

Spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, called the Clinton’s administration’s final State Dinner for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, “an acknowledgment for India,” but he was insulted because the list was so large (more than 700 guests). Radio host Diane Rehm didn’t mind. “I feel like a woman who’s been invited here for the first time.” It wasn’t Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder’s first State Dinner, but “they’re not old hat either,” he said, adding: “This is one of the more pleasant things I get to do at The White House.”

“There are more than one million Indians in America, and I think more than half of them are here tonight and the other half are disappointed,” quipped President Clinton. Many of the American guests were surprised to learn that Indians own 750 companies in Silicon Valley alone. “That’s India’s version of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,'” explained President Clinton.

Americans of Indian heritage are alive and well in New York, and although the White House was ever so careful to keep Hillary’s campaign separate, reminders were everywhere. The Prime Minister even said he was “grateful for her taking time out from her election campaign.” There was even a New York feel in the entertainment — The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, but few except The First Lady paid much attention. In a breach of protocol, guests worked the room and continued talking as if the Society was merely background music. Not only that, many of the guests walked right up to the head table to greet the First Couple (perhaps because the traditional receiving line had been omitted due to the Prime Minister’s failing health).

“The time has come to recognize that nuclear armament anywhere in the world is dangerous, outdated, and irrelevant to the kind of world we’re living in,” said Chopra. “We don’t have choice if we go the way of predator.”

Actor Chevy Chase wouldn’t talk about the topic du jour, the nuclear situation, calling it “not appropriate to discuss.”

Author and University of California professor Jane Rosener called the Clintons “interactive leaders.” “This is the new leadership; wives are seen with their husbands.”

Melissa Ethridge, who is a big Clinton supporter, talked about last week’s Commerce Committee hearings on violence and entertainment. “They try to shake it up in an election year. In the end we have the first amendment. I don’t think any laws made in haste will last in a Supreme Court . . ” But she hesitated, and added, “It depends WHO’s Supreme Court.”

Actress Goldie Hawn, wearing an attention grabbing long red dress, was escorted by her son, Boston Russell. She talked about the film, “Ashes to Ashes” that she’s written about Indians.

Producer Harry Thomason meeting super model Christie Brinkley for the first time, quipped: “If you pose with me you’ll end up subpoenaed.” The ‘FOB’ has kept his sense of humor about the Clintons’ eight roller-coaster years.

Nancy Mehta, wife of the orchestra leader, said she was “stunned” about the resolution of the lawsuit with her former personal assistant and one-time Clinton Whitewater investment partner, Arkansan Susan McDougal. “There has to be overwhelming evidence for the state to take the case,” said Mehta, who accused McDougal of stealing money off her credit cards. McDougal was found “not guilty.” State Dinners do draw a diverse crowd.

Later in the East Room, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright danced on into the night with Joseph George, father of her Deputy Chief of Staff, Suzanne George.

Meanwhile, First Daughter Chelsea, accompanied by 18 Secret Service agents was having an awesome time at the Olympics in Sydney, so much fun that she’s extended her stay.

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