COLUMNS

Many facets to the stars of India

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • July 20, 2005

by Karen Feld

buzz

Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the 130 invitees for President and Mrs. Bush’s official dinner, Monday evening, for Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh of India and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, called the nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India “a significant opportunity.” Lugar added, “Polls indicate that the public in India has a tremendous affection for the U.S. – that was not always true.”

The honoree and the guest list were significant for the official dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House Monday evening. President Bush prefers to entertain heads of state in the comfort of his Crawford, Texas, ranch or the more relaxed style of Camp David.

When asked why President Bush, who has hosted less than a handful of state or official dinners such as this one since he’s been in office, had selected India, a relaxed-looking Don Rumsfeld said, “India is the largest democracy on the face of the earth.”

Who was not invited is as important as who was invited.

Dick Cheney was there; Karl Rove was not; Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas (with Sugarland, Texas, councilman-at-large and Republican business activist Thomas Abraham), yes; columnist Bob Novak, no; Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, yes; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, no. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, attended, but the current chairs, Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., did not; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff, who is under fire for alleged leaks, attended. Both he and Vice President Cheney avoided the press by entering the White House through the West Wing rather than with the other guests. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card chose the back entrance as well.

Before the start of state dinner, first lady Laura Bush waits to welcome India’s prime minister and his wife on Monday at the White House

After spotting Rove’s absence, we couldn’t help but wonder whether the president was distancing himself from Rove. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard was defending Rove. He said: “Rove’s only problem is the special prosecutor may want to indict someone.”

Historian and author David McCullough said this was his sixth State Dinner. President Bush is reading the author’s “1776.” A sprinkling of corporate CEOs were present as well: Bob Stevens, Lockheed Martin Corp., and James McNerney Jr. of The Boeing Company.

Where’s the curry?

A look at the menu – asparagus soup and halibut – prepared by assistant chefs, as the White House is currently without an executive chef since Walter Scheib’s firing, would lead one to believe that the president isn’t fond of Indian cuisine. “Oh, come on,” said the defense secretary, brushing off the question.

Mrs. Bush has shed a few pounds so she was able to wear an orange-and yellow-flowered Bill Blass design with diagonal ruffles – and actually matched the floral and table decor.

The sounds of traditional New Orleans jazz were a hit when the Preservation Hall Jazz Band entertained. The White House kept the names of the 126 additional guests invited after dinner for the performance under wraps.

Hillary money machine keeps movin’

“Friends of Hillary” aren’t wasting any time when it comes to raising dollars. They’ll gather at Julian Epstein’s Adams Morgan loft this evening for a $500/head cocktail fund-raiser for the 2006 Senate race. Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., has raised more than $6 million during the past three months – that’s half of the total amount she’s raised to date.

Dean with taxation-without-representation crowd

Last Tuesday evening, a few hundred of D.C.’s local Democratic movers and shakers gathered at Cada Vez Restaurant on U Street in Northwest to listen to some inspiring words from their national leader, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. Democrats from every arm of locally elected office turned out – including D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Williams’ chief of staff Alfreda Davis (the mayor was in Detroit meeting with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig). This was the first major fundraiser for the D.C. Democrats (who outnumber their Republican counterparts 10 to one in the District.) This was also one of the only times a sitting chairman of the national party has spent an evening raising funds with and for the local Democratic party. Dean reiterated his party’s support for D.C. voting rights.

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