In wake of Tucson shootings Obama proceeds with next week's state dinner with China
Even in the wake of a national tragedy, the business of diplomacy goes on. The Jan. 19 state dinner for Chinese president Hu Jintao will proceed as planned, exactly one week after President Obama attends a memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shootings. The dinner has been months in the planning; Obama extended the invitation last June while the two were in Toronto for the G20 summit.
This isn't the first time the White House soldiered on: In April 1995 -- just two days after the Oklahoma City bombings -- Bill and Hillary Clinton hosted a state dinner for Brazil's president Fernando Henrique Cardoso. "You know that you have come here . . . at a very difficult time for our country," Clinton said in his toast. The mood, of course, was somber; guests (then-White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, Attorney General Janet Reno, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Sen. John Kerry) avoided reporters and the party banter typical of these gatherings.
George W. Bush's first state dinner for Mexico's Vicente Fox was on Sept. 5, 2001 -- a week before the World Trade Center attacks -- and then there wasn't another for 10 months. Washington came to a standstill; anything remotely social was quickly canceled or gingerly converted to fundraisers for victims' families. Same for this week: The vast majority of events planned to welcome new members of congress were scrapped or postponed, reports Roll Call, although the Republican National Committee still plans to hold elections for the chairmanship Friday.
But there are no plans to change the date of the Chinese state dinner, the White House confirmed Tuesday. The dinner is an important symbol of U.S.-China relations; the sometimes rocky ties between the two countries resulted in very few state visits. Ronald Reagan hosted president Li Xiannian in 1985; the most recent state visit was 13 years ago, when Clinton welcomed president Jiang Zemin on Oct. 29, 1997. (Although Chinese leaders met with George Bush in Washington and Crawford, Tx., none of those informal visits received the coveted "state" designation.)
This will be the Obama's third state dinner; no details on the guest list, menu or entertainment have been released.
Read more about the China state visit and state dinner for China.
The Reliable Source
| January 11, 2011; 9:54 PM ET
Categories: White House State Dinner
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