“To the history that unites us and the values that still unite us,” Biden said on a podium in a landmark pavilion built for the occasion from vinyl, glass and wood on the South Lawn.
Jill Biden’s sparkling state dinner dress revived a first lady tradition
“Long live the United States of America, long live France and long live the friendship between our two countries,” Macron said in French, with a picture of the Statue of Liberty in the background, that copper colossus from France. He ended in English: “Cheers. Thank you.” Biden then asked if he could introduce Macron to his sister, Valerie Biden Owens. “I follow you,” Macron said, as the pair meandered past candlesticks dripping crimson wax.
The dinner, which featured a performance by virtuoso bandleader Jon Batiste, was the effervescent highlight of this week’s state visit, as Macron and Biden explored new ways to describe their mutual affection and defy their common enemy, Russian President Vladimir Putin. defame. The dinner was a nostalgic mix of bold names from politics, business, Hollywood and fashion. Singer John Legend and Chrissy Teigen sat next to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hugged Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
Full list of guests at the Macron state dinner, including Colbert, Louis-Dreyfus
Guests were transported by heated tour bus from the White House to the pavilion, where 33 rectangular dining tables were dotted with the nations’ shared colors: blue delphiniums, white irises, and American Beauty roses. The gold-plated crockery was rented (can’t risk the good china with a tipsy case). The tablecloths were navy blue. The chandeliers above, flickering with artificial candles, were medieval in their roundness. The visual vibe was “Beauty and the Beast” meets “Game of Thrones”.
The beef calotte was served with shallot marmalade. The butter potatoes were triple cooked. There was pumpkin ravioli from the White House garden and white California sturgeon caviar. Dessert was orange chiffon cake with tangerine mousse, roasted pears and creme fraiche ice cream. The wines and cheeses were American: cheddar from Sheboygan, Wis., and chardonnay and cabernet from the Napa and Knights Valleys. (Let’s take a moment to reflect on the 1996 state dinner for France, which the Bidens attended as guests of the Clintons, and the French ambassador’s impromptu review of the wine pairings. Truth and Diplomacy. “Very Good American Wines.”)
The Maine lobsters were found alive and sunk Tuesday morning. They were poached in butter, and controversy. In the past month, two fishing guides have urged consumers not to eat American lobster caught in the Atlantic Ocean. The Marine Stewardship Council announced Wednesday that the lobster is no longer considered sustainable because the fishing gear snarls an endangered whale species. Meanwhile, Maine Congressman Jared Golden (a Democrat) pleaded on behalf of the people involved.
The criticism: a state dinner throws everyone a little off. And that’s wonderful
“If the Biden White House can prioritize the purchase of 200 Maine lobsters for a fancy dinner,” Golden tweeted, “the president should also take the time to meet with the Maine lobster men his administration is currently bankrupting .”
Of the past 10 White House state dinners, three have honored France. Macron is only the third French head of state, after Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac, to be invited for the second time. With Angela Merkel gone and the UK running through prime ministers like Kleenex, Macron appears to be the de facto leader of Europe.
“If you look at what’s going on in Ukraine, look at what’s going on in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all of those things,” national security official John Kirby said this week. “And President Macron has been a dynamic leader within the G-7, especially there in Europe.”
Or, as Biden said when asked why he invited Macron, “Because he’s my friend.”
When Macron was born, in December 1977, Biden was in his first term in the Senate. During this week’s visit, the Gen-Xer was affectionate with his oldest. “Cher Joe,” Macron called him, routinely placing his hand on Biden’s shoulder or the lower back. “We’re friends,” Brigitte Macron said of Jill Biden, who held her hand Thursday morning while visiting the Planet Word museum. “We are friends,” the first lady confirmed, and Brigitte repeated, because these rituals are about repetition: “We are friends.”
On Wednesday night, the Bidens and Macrons dined privately at Fiola Mare in Georgetown. In public, there were the usual bon ami invocations of George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, whom Biden referred to as “Marcus” during his welcome address on the South Lawn. This was shortly after Biden referred to “this December night” at 9:34.
The presidents tried to find modern ways of describing the ancient alliance of their nations.
“Locked at the hip,” Biden said Thursday morning in the Oval Office.
“We’re synchronized,” Macron offered, on the other side of the crackling fireplace.
Macron carried gifts. He gave President Biden a vinyl copy of the soundtrack to “Un Homme et une Femme,” the 1966 movie Joe and Jill watched on their first date in 1975. Macron gave Jill Biden a copy of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and an anthology. by Albert Camus with ‘The Plague’. Macron gave Vice President Harris a model of the Ariane 5 transporter; the pair visited NASA headquarters on Wednesday to talk about space as a place for opportunity and “conflictuality,” as the French president put it.
State dinners with our oldest ally have always been accompanied by sweet bonhomie full of irritability. Before a dinner in 1960, Dwight D. Eisenhower praised De Gaulle as “a good friend of all who love human dignity,” even as France suspected the United States of undermining its interests in Africa. In 1984, Ronald Reagan and Francois Mitterand complained about each other’s agricultural policies and then ate veal tenderloin en croute together (guest Julia Child joked, “I don’t think the main course was a success”). In 2007, George W. Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy finally tried to get past a frosty freedom-fries feud with a stuffy after-dinner reenactment of Washington’s meeting with Lafayette.
This time, le brouhaha was the potential impact of a signature Biden legislative achievement, the Inflation Reduction Act, on European trade. Something about tax credits and subsidies and semiconductors, you see, and a potential trade imbalance. At the French embassy on Wednesday, Macron expressed aloud concerns that the transcontinental economic fallout from the bill would “fragment the West,” according to Fox News. During a Thursday afternoon press conference with Biden, the US president acknowledged that there were “glitches” in the law that could be fixed.
Speaking of inflation, Biden’s guest list included a whopping 339 people. Richard M. Nixon’s 1970 state dinner for Georges Pompidou was attended by 110 people. Herbert Hoover’s 1931 dinner for Pierre Laval was 85 (all men, accompanied only by cigars).
Showbiz guests on Thursday’s list: actors Ariana DeBose and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, late night host Stephen Colbert, actor Jennifer Garner and her daughter Violet Affleck (one of the few attendees to wear a mask), film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and 85-year-old Claude Lelouch (director of the movie watched on Joe and Jill’s first date).
Politicians present: a slew of senators, a few deputy aides from whomever, and the secretaries of Finance, Labor, Commerce, and Agriculture.
“Great. And happy. And relieved,” Pelosi said when asked what she thought of the newly elected Democratic leadership in the House. Her daughter Alexandra continued, “Free at last.”
“You’re going to have dinner with Hunter Biden tonight,” Reuters reporter Jeff Mason told Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as he entered the White House. “How does that feel, knowing that a lot of people in your caucus want to investigate him?”
“I’m having dinner with my mom,” McCarthy replied, mom on his arm, “so we’re going to have a great time.”
The presidents entered the pavilion at a decidedly European time for dinner: around 9:43 p.m
“I actually grew up in a place called New Castle, Delaware County, near Brandywine Battlefield,” Biden said at the time, “where a young man named Marquis de Lafayette” – pronunciation correct this time – “fought for the American cause and became good friends with a guy named George Washington.
Macron compared Lafayette’s contribution to the American Revolution to that of American servicemen who stormed the beaches of Normandy – bets to achieve, maintain or restore freedom.
“Today those principles are at risk in many places,” Macron said, but “we stand together, shoulder to shoulder.”