President Trump will host French President Emmanuel Macron for a state dinner at the White House. Trump is the first President since the 1920s to not host a state dinner during his first year in office.
Breaking with tradition, Congressional Democrats and White House reporters won’t be invited to take part in the event. For now, the guest list and the menu are mostly a secret. The dinner marks the first official state dinner in the White House to feature “full ceremonial honors,” according to ABC News, and is being held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
This dinner is also meant to solidify an alliance formed when France and the United States joined forces as part of a coalition targeting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons manufacturing facilities. Trump and Macron have struck up quite a friendship and it has the left and the media totally baffled.
Only a select few lawmakers have been invited to attend the dinner so far. Sen. Chuck Schumer and the media have been noticeably not invited. Media was quick to note that this was likely a deliberate break with tradition. When former President Obama feted Macron’s predecessor, that state dinner featured everyone from CNN’s Jeff Zucker to recording artist Mary J. Blige. Jill Abramson, then The New York Times’s top editor, was also in attendance. Representatives from other media companies, like The Associated Press and Reuters, were also present. But unlike Obama, Trump has preferred quieter affairs when it comes to entertaining foreign dignitaries. The White House is at this point a strange locale for a presidential party; Trump hosts most foreign leaders as his Florida estate.
Of the roughly 150 people that are set to attend the dinner, only four are members of Congress: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI); Rep. Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), according to Politico. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was invited, but is unable to attend, Politico reported. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, will also be in attendance. As an exception, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has confirmed his attendance.
Lea Berman, the White House social secretary under former President George W. Bush, told Politico that the exclusion of Democrats and members of the media is “a break with tradition.” It is doubtful however, that Trump cares for tradition. He is far more interested in getting things done and forming alliances.
The President and First Lady Melania Trump will first dine the night before the dinner privately with Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at Mount Vernon, the home of America’s first president, George Washington, on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia. The White House said the setting will serve as a reminder of France’s “unique status” as America’s first ally.
When Macron’s limousine first pulls up the White House driveway, Trump, the First Lady, White House and administration officials and hundreds of invited guests will be waiting on the South Lawn. The pomp-filled arrival ceremony is for the man who became the youngest president in French history when he was elected in 2017 at age 39 on his first run for office. The visit also offers Macron his first Oval Office meeting and a joint White House news conference with Trump. There’s also a State Department lunch hosted by Vice President Mike Pence before Macron and his wife arrive for the state dinner.
Macron likely sealed the bond with the President after Trump accepted his invitation to attend the annual Bastille Day military parade in the center of Paris. Macron and his wife also took Trump and the First Lady on a tour of Napoleon’s tomb and whisked them up into the Eiffel Tower for dinner overlooking the City of Lights. The experience led Trump to order up a military parade in downtown Washington, DC for later this year.
The two leaders differ on some significant issues, including the Paris climate accord, which Trump withdrew the US from last year, and the Iran nuclear deal, another multinational agreement that Trump is itching to pull out of. The President did rally Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May, with whom Trump also has sparred, to mount a joint military operation against Syria in response to an apparent chemical attack that killed Syrian civilians. Macron still worries about Trump’s desire to remove US troops from Syria.
The dinner will be a selective, small affair where the two world leaders can talk shop without worrying who will leak the details. Perhaps this is the way state dinners should be held.
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