- Donald Trump just feted French president Emmanuel Macron with a lavish state dinner in the White House.
- Four years ago, Barack Obama hosted Macron’s predecessor François Hollande for a similarly fancy state dinner.
- The events were both opulent, but differed in a number of key ways.
Donald Trump wined and dined French president Emmanuel Macron at the White House last night.
But how did Trump’s state dinner for Macron compare with the one their predecessors shared in 2014?
Well, for one thing, the state dinner that Barack Obama hosted for then French president François Hollande was far bigger. Around 350 people attended, and the event was held in a large tent on the South Lawn of the White House, CNN reported.
Trump’s guest list was tighter, with about 150 attendees,Politico reported. As such, the celebrations were largely contained to the State Dining Room in the White House.
Back in 2014, the Washington Post reported that these diplomatic soirees can come with hefty price tags – up to $US500,000. They’re also traditionally planned with a ton of input from the first lady, so Michelle Obama and Melania Trump and their respective staffers deserve much of the credit for the two events.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how Trump’s state dinner compares to Obama’s:
Trump broke with tradition by largely excluding everyone except for Republican-friendly figures
Obama’s 2014 guest list was remarkable in one respect: the French president went stag.
Hollande’s relationship with Valerie Trierweiler had just ended, so he opted to attend the event. solo.
The state dinner drew in attendees from a range of industries. Well-known figures like Elon Musk, Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jill Abramson, Jeff Zucker, Bradley Cooper, and J.J. Abrams all mingled with Hollande and the US president.
Obama also invited Republican politicians like Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and Bill Haslam, as well as figures from his own party like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Trump didn’t extend the same courtesy to most Democratic figures.CNN reported that Louisiana’s Democratic governor John Bel Edwards did snag an invite, however.
Trump’s guest list mostly featured notable figures in his own orbit – like first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kusher, adviser Stephen Miller, CIA director Mike Pompeo, White House chief of staff John Kelly, and Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton. Other conservative icons included Rupert Murdoch amd Henry Kissinger made appearances.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was one notable exception.
Michelle Obama and Melania Trump both attended the event in style — but Obama’s gown was likely much less expensive
At her husband’s 2014 soiree, Michelle Obama wore a black and blue gown from designer Carolina Herrera. The dress was given as a gift to the first lady, and was estimated to have a price tag around $US12,000.
The New York Times reported that Melania Trump’s sequined silver dress was a haute couture Chanel gown, while Brigitte Macron donned a cream and gold Louis Vuitton number.
It’s currently unclear how much their dresses cost – and whether or not they were gifts from the designers – although the Sidney Morning Herald reported that haute couture can run from $US30,000 to $US100,000.
On the other hand, Obama, Hollande, Trump, and Macron all went with black tuxes.
Obama’s state dinner included more courses than Trump’s
Both presidents decided to put out a menu that promised gourmet American cuisine with a French twist. The Obama administration’s table decor featured a classic blue and white colour palette, with gold highlights.
Unsurprisingly, the Trumps went with lots of gold.
Hollande and the Obamas tucked into four courses. Dishes included “American osetra caviar,” “fingerling potato velouté,” quail eggs, and a salad dubbed “the winter garden salad.” Guests chowed down on a main course of dry-aged rib eye beef, and then wrapped up with a dessert of Hawaiian chocolate-malted ganache, served with vanilla ice cream and tangerines.
Meanwhile, at Trump’s three course state dinner, “goat cheese gateau,” “buttermilk biscuit crumbles,” and “Carolina gold rice jambalaya” were all served up. The main course consisted of a rack of spring lamb, and desert featured crème fraîche ice cream and a nectarine tart, according to a menu obtained by CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller.
It’s unclear whether or not the president took two scoops of the crème fraîche.
Both state dinners featured a number of fancy wines with symbolic French themes
Trump didn’t break out any of his namesake wines for Macron to sample.
Instead, the Washington Post reported that guests drank a 2015 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay, which featured “French vines that take well to Oregon’s volcanic soil.” The other two wines served were a 2014 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Laurene and the sparkling Schramsberg Cremant Demi-sec.
Back in 2014, Obama, Hollande, and other party-goers sipped on a sparkling Thibaut-Janisson “Blanc de Chardonnay” from Monticello – the home of US president and noted Francophile Thomas Jefferson.
Decanter reported that the Sonoma County wine La Proportion Doree from Morlet Family Vineyards and Long Shadows Vintners’ 2009 Chester-Kidder Red Blend were also served.
Both Obama and Trump reflected on famous Franco-American figures
Obama kicked off his toast with the French greeting “Bonsoir,” before joking that he’d “officially exhausted” his French.
The president went on to reference French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured the fledgling US in 1831, noting that the chronicler was dismayed by the lack of wine in the country.
“Now, it is true that we Americans have grown to love all things French – the films, the food, the wine,” Obama said, according to Politico. “Especially the wine. But most of all, we love our French friends because we’ve stood together for our freedom for more than 200 years.”
At his 2018 event, Trump spoke about the history of relations between the two countries.
“Yesterday we had a wonderful visit to Mount Vernon, a place that is truly special in the history of this very remarkable friendship,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “It was there that General George Washington met with General Rochambeau to finalise battle plans for victory at Yorktown, many, many victories.”
He went on to discuss the close relationship between Franco-American icon Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, and US president George Washington, as well as France’s fight “to defeat fascism” during WWII.
“May our friendship grow even deeper,” he said. “May our kinship grow even stronger.”
Hollande’s toast was slightly darker than Macron’s
Hollande and Macron both discussed Lafayette, and America’s involvement in the two world wars.
“We love Americans, although we don’t always say so,” Hollande said, Politico reported. “And you love the French, but you’re sometimes too shy to say so. But we share the same universal values – freedom, democracy, respect for the law. These principles guide our action.”
Hollande reflected on violence in the Central African Republic, the growing conflict with Bashar al-Assad, and the Iranian nuclear program.
Meanwhile, Macron joked about one notable former American minister to France.
“This White House so full of history that the British burned down in 1815, and I say this in the most amicable way, and that James Monroe then had the brilliant idea of decorating with French furniture,” Macron said, according to the Washington Post. “A man of taste. In fact, he was a former ambassador to Paris.”
He went on to speak about the bond between the US and France, briefly touched upon the recent military strike on Syria, and then reflected on his own relationship with Trump.
“I got to know you, you got to know me, we both know that none of us easily changes his mind, but we will work together and we have this ability to listen to one another,” he said.
Trump’s dinner didn’t feature a concert from any big name artist
At Obama’s state dinner, Grammy Award-winning singer Mary J. Blige reportedly belted out tunes that got everyone on the dance floor.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hollande danced with the First Couple to the song “One” – a U2 ditty that Blige covered at the concert.
Considering Trump’s reported lack of luck in finding a big star to sing at his inauguration, it’s not surprising that no widely-known artist was on hand to serenade the state dinner attendees.
However, NBC reported that the Washington National Opera did perform at the event.