Obama's first state dinner under big tent

Nov. 23, 2009 at 10:25 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The guest list remains a guarded secret for Tuesday's state dinner honoring India's prime minister, the first such dinner U.S. President Barack Obama will host.

Instead of the traditional venue of the State Dining Room, the Obamas will dine with a few hundred VIPs in a heated tent on the South Lawn, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Dee Dee Myers, who was former President Bill Clinton's press secretary, said lobbying by people seeking an invite had probably been relentless.

"The first (state dinner) is always the most dramatic," Myers said. "First impressions are important. That's your A list, that's your top game right there. By the time you get to the eighth state dinner, it'll be a lot less important."

Despite the secrecy surrounding the guest list, the Times speculated that celebrity Oprah Winfrey and Chicago hotel billionaire Penny Pritzker likely were invited, as well as top Obama aides David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel.

The shoo-in for nailing an invite: Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill.

Myers said the Clintons took some guff about their tented affairs from critics who judged them "too Arkansas, too big and not exclusive enough."

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