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Biden’s State Dinner for Japan Was Heavy on Symbolism (and Yes, Cherry Blossoms)

It was all very polite.

Ambassadors, billionaires, a handful of Biden family members and even a former president were all in attendance at the fifth state dinner that President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, have hosted since taking office.

The gauzy celebration leaned heavily on Japanese fans, cherry blossoms and other symbols of the softer side of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Much of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s state visit was focused on finding ways to counter China, but the style of the dinner was focused on showcasing a capital that owes its spring splendor, in large part part, to the diplomatic overtures of the Japanese. .

As dinner began in the East Room, Mr. Biden toasted “to our alliance, to our friendship.” He kept things just as light earlier in the evening when he welcomed Mr. Kishida to the White House, responding “Thank you” to a reporter’s question about expectations that Iran would retaliate against Israel for its strikes on an Iranian target in Syria. .

Mr. Kishida also looked at the idea of ​​friendship.

“The Pacific Ocean does not separate Japan and the United States. On the contrary, it unites us,” Mr. Kishida said during his dinner toast, noting that President Kennedy said the same thing 60 years ago. “I like this line. I use it so many times that my staff tried to delete it.

The symbolic and muscular gestures were returned by the Bidens. Naomi Biden Neal, the presidential eldest granddaughter who was married at the White House in 2022, arrived in a dress with cherry blossoms printed on it.

Dr. Biden wore a sapphire ombre-effect dress by designer Oscar de la Renta. Finnegan Biden, another Biden granddaughter, sat at the head table with her grandparents.

Attendees largely turned to jokes. Even Rahm Emanuel, the profanity-prone ambassador to Japan, lent his talents to the art of polite dinner conversation: in an interview, he said he spent part of his visit Washington to help Paul Simon, the evening’s musical guest, understand how to greet Mr. Kishida in Japanese.

Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter, politely but quickly walked away from the cameras after speaking to reporters about her attire. On Tuesday, a Florida woman was sentenced to prison for selling Ms. Biden’s diary to a right-wing activist group. But external concerns rarely arise between an invitation to Biden and a state dinner. Ms. Biden’s brother, Hunter, attended a state dinner while under federal investigation last year.

As he entered the festivities against a backdrop of giant painted fans, President Bill Clinton gleefully pointed to a portrait of his wife, Hillary Clinton, former first lady, former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate of 2016. Mrs. Clinton, standing next to her husband in a fuchsia and gold caftan, beamed.

“Oh, we’re having a good time tonight,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters.

The Clintons were among a group of attendees invited to the Yellow Oval Room upstairs, where Biden Cabinet officials and several diplomatic guests joined in a toast, delivered in English, by Mr. Kishida, and mingled on the Truman balcony.

“Is it pretty?” It’s so pretty! Gina Raimondo, the Commerce Secretary, said with a broad gesture as she squeezed past reporters as she entered.

Sometimes unseemly political matters (compared to cherry blossoms, anyway) crept in. But several attendees seemed less than enthusiastic about talking about Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign — or the issues facing it — when asked. Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, dodged a question about inflation before dinner.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos arrived with his fiancée, Lauren Sánchez, and did not say whether he planned to donate to Mr. Biden’s campaign. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, also did not answer the same question.

Actor Robert De Niro, who arrived with his girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, did not respond to reporters who asked if he was ready to campaign for Mr. Biden. Mr. De Niro, 80, was recently attending a major fundraiser for the Biden campaign in New York. (He and Ms. Chen are also the parents of a 1-year-old—there are worse ways to spend a date night.)

Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, took a break to speak with reporters about the importance of spotlighting reproductive rights ahead of the November election. This week, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a near-total ban on abortion dating back to the 1800s.

“We have made great progress,” Ms. Richards said. “Just removing everything was very motivating for women and men. »

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers also reminded reporters of his state’s importance in November. “This is going to be the difference between a victory and a defeat for the president,” Mr. Evers said before heading inside.

Kamala Harris, the vice president, arrived in star-studded Valentino alongside Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman. She did not respond to a question about Arizona.

As the evening progressed, distinct clues suggested that political strategy and not just banter would be on the menu alongside caramel and pistachio cake with matcha ganache, cherry ice cream and a selection of American wines.

Ms. Richards, Mr. De Niro and the Clintons were guests at the head table with the Bidens on Wednesday evening, along with Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat who joined a Biden campaign call the last week to attack Republican-led abortion. restrictions.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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