The Clinton team is getting ready for the first white-tie state dinner in 18 years — the last one was hosted by Gerald Ford for the Queen of England. On June 13, the Clinton’s will entertain Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
“That’s why I didn’t go on the trip to Europe,” said White House Social Secretary Ann Stock who is getting everything ready for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s approval when the First Lady returns home Thursday.
Given that Japanese protocol is perhaps the most precise in the world, the Clintons are right to fret about details, especially when it concerns honoring the 125th occupants of the Chrysanthemum Throne.
The White House just signed off on the perfect table linens, 23 crimson and white brocade rounds, which means they can serve 200 dinner guests. That’s quite a crowd for the Rose Garden, which usually maxes out at 140. And it’s also something new for the Imperial Couple who in the past have said they’d prefer not to dine under a tent.
Although officials at the Japanese Embassy say the couple have no dietary preferences, there is a tip sheet being distributed by Protocol Chief Molly Raiser, with some key pieces of advice. For example: “Since their majesties do not peel the skin of fruits themselves, all fruits should be served without skins.” The memo further advises that “grapes should be peeled. Therefore grapes should be avoided.” Another point — don’t make luncheon toasts because the Emperor doesn’t return them. And while one can address the couple “without putting down one’s utensils,” Raiser’s advisory goes so far as to warn against “talking with food in one’s mouth.” The Emperor doesn’t do receiving lines, but prefers walkabouts instead. He is also not allowed to receive expensive gifts, so hold the Steuben. And he doesn’t pose for anything but official photos, which means Tipper Gore should leave her one-step at home.