Protocol continues to be a bear at the Clinton White House, especially when it comes to footwork and timing. After coming down the Grand Staircase at the dinner to celebrate the Israel-Jordan peace accord, President Clinton, King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin and their wives formed a receiving line — only to be instructed to rearrange themselves by deputy White House social secretary Sarah Ryan. Pointing to places on an oriental runner at the foot of the stairs, Ryan directed all the men to the front of the line and all the women to the rear. Once the receiving line was in order, the Clintons greeted everyone so rapidly that dinner started an hour ahead of schedule.
“That’s the fastest receiving line I’ve ever seen,” said Clinton aide David Gergen, who arrived midway through Clinton’s before-dinner toast. Gergen got a knowing nod from chief usher Gary Walters.
“That’s just what the chef said,” agreed Walters as he zipped through the Grand Hall to chasten three aides who were hauling chairs out of the East Room while King Hussein addressed the group. Hussein had almost finished speaking by the time National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and press secretary Dee Dee Myers arrived. Later, even the President spotted a glitch. After bidding farewell to King Hussein and Queen Noor, he and Hillary headed back into the White House to escort Yitzhak and Leah Rabin out the door. But as they waited at the North Portico, Clinton threw up his hands.
“We blew the protocol,” he proclaimed with a smile. “Their car’s not here.”