Unlike the wide coverage given to the tedious meetings President Obama has held about Afghanistan, the planning for the White House State Dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was conducted in complete secrecy.
It's a pity. First of all, the President himself also convened these discussions, this time assembling his Kitchen Cabinet to help with the decisions.
Actually, Michelle Obama sat at the head of this table, but it's fair to say that Barack was the power behind this throne. As a result the meetings were interminable debates between those who favored one protocol or another.
Particularly valuable, as one might imagine, was the input from Hillary Rodham Clinton who brought such a wide variety of experiences to the
deliberations. Not only could she share her perspectives as Secretary of States and former First Lady, she had also spent those many years as Governor's wife in Arkansas, so her knowledge if "Country Come to Town" society events was unmatched.
And that was the crux of this internal debate. Should this be the usual highfalutin' formal affair, which Secretary/Mrs. Clinton favored, or should it be closer to what Vice President Joe Biden was advocating, where the President would invite everyone "to the White House for a beer". Hey, it had worked once before.
Should they use paper plates or real ones, given India's sensitivity about China? Should it be a strictly vegetarian menu, given Mr. Singh's diet or should the selections include red meat to satisfy the Republican guests? Should they invite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who might wonder aloud who should pay for this?
Should it be a sit down dinner in the or maybe a buffet? How about really breaking with formal tradition and instead of holding it in the State Dining Room, how about throwing a tent up in the backyard?
Well we now know the result of all this dinner-dithering. The President finally decided on both tent and china. The consensus approach apparently worked. This compromise made everyone happy.
Don't be surprised, though, if the decision coming up on Afghanistan next week, has the totally opposite reaction...pleasing no one.