In a surprising break from tradition, it appears President Donald Trump will be hosting a different type of state dinner on Tuesday — and it doesn’t involve Democrats or the media.
As reported by Politico on Friday, the president has yet to invite any Democratic lawmakers or members of the media to the notable dinner which will be hosting French President Emmanuel Macron.
With a guest list of merely 150, the dinner will be different than his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who had more than 350 guests attending the large event held on the South Lawn.
“It is a break with tradition,” said Lea Berman, who served as the White House social secretary under former President George W. Bush. and authored the etiquette guide “Treating People Well” with Jeremy Bernard.
Obama’s last state dinner, which hosted former French president Francois Hollande in February 2014, was a bipartisan affair that included notable celebrities, lawmakers and members of the media.
However, this year even Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is also Trump’s own home-state senator, was left out of the festivities.
Among the list of invitees, the only members of Congress scheduled to attend are Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Louisiana senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, and House Foreign Affairs Chair Ed Royce. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he could not attend.
Some aides said that, while he staying at his Mar-a-Lago retreat this week in Florida, the president may extend invitations to other friends or admirers he just happens to see.
The event comes 15 months into Trump’s role as president and also breaks from tradition in the way of planning the dinner itself, which will be done by members of the White House.
Last year, the president disregarded such a public event, with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that there was no “singular reason” a state dinner was not being held, though others say they can be a vital event for lawmakers.
“The White House is the world stage to elevate that,” said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush. “These occasions really go a long way to solidify and strengthen relationships.”
Yet, the president spoke about such notable events when he was running for president, dismissing the idea that the dinners are an important diplomatic tool and specifically citing Obama’s attempt to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015 with a state dinner.
“I would not be throwing (Xi) a dinner,” Trump said. “I would get him a McDonald’s hamburger and say we’ve got to get down to work.”
Rather than bringing in an outside event-planning firm, as the White House usually does on such occasions, the first lady and her office have decided to take on the challenge of planning the diplomatic dinner.
“Mrs. Trump has been involved in every detail of the planning,” said Stephanie Grisham, who is the first lady’s press secretary. “Over the past few months, she has been very focused on guest experience, tradition and our country’s rich history with France.”
Yet, the dinner is also sure to highlight the country’s already divided political atmosphere as half of Washington will not be attending, raising concerns with other lawmakers and former administration officials.
“A lot of traditions are not being as closely honored as they have been in the past,” admitted Obama social secretary Bernard, who served in the White House under Obama from 2011 to 2015.
“It seems to be opposite of tradition but that’s their prerogative,” he added. “It certainly doesn’t add any feeling of harmony, that’s for sure.”
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