November 21, 2008

A Bit of Proper Mortification

OVER THE PAST WEEK, there was a lot of discussion over the state dinner held for leaders at the G20 meeting, and a lot of caterwauling about the supposedly luxurious food and wine served at this occasion. Based on media accounts of the whole affair, it appears the American People are once again outraged with their Government, this time because the Government had the audacity to serve one decent wine during the dinner.

The Rant, as one might expect, takes a contrarian view of this whole matter. Namely, we've got twenty heads of state on hand for one of the most important financial summits in modern history, and we only served one decent wine during the occasion. Well, that's just great. All the other heads of state, after politely offering their goodbyes for the evening, must have come away thinking, "Jesus Christ, the Americans can't even put on a proper state dinner, and they're going to lecture us about economics?" At least, that's how I would have taken it.

Now look. As a taxpayer, and one who sends thousands of dollars to the national fisc each year, I expect my Government to forcefully remind the other nations of the world that the United States remains rich, prosperous, powerful and able to outfox and outmuscle any of them. The Government does not remind the world of its imperium maius by acting like Andrew frickin' Jackson. It also does not remind the world of its economic supremacy by serving blah wine. Have we no Lafite Rothschild in the White House's wine cellar? And if not, couldn't that have been arranged for one dinner?

I mean, I'm sorry, but we look cheap when we do things like that. Consider: the wine to start the meal went for about $40 a bottle, while the dessert wine went for about $30 a bottle. Are you kidding me? Why don't we send out to the Olive Garden while we're at it? Hey, here's an even better idea: why don't we have Pizza Hut prepare the pasta, and see how our invited heads of state react on hidden camera? God!

But why stop with complaining about the wine? Let's complain about the food too, while we're at it. Our invited heads of state got treated to a four-course dinner, which consisted of: a quail starter, a lamb main course, an endive salad and a pear torte. I don't know about you, but I think we were a bit light. No soup? No fish? No amuses?

I mean, come on. If the Russians had held a state dinner everyone would have eaten for five hours straight, gone back to their rooms, slept for ten hours and then would have been able to work for three full days based on the strength of that one meal alone. I mean, say what you will about the Russian Government, but the Russians are no slouches when it comes to putting on a fancy meal. It's no wonder we didn't accomplish anything at the summit.

Now, I know there are those who would consider it abhorrent and wretched were the Government to actually spend a lot of money on a fancy state dinner, but I do not think these arguments should be given much weight. After all, when you think about how rare state dinners actually are, they're not all that much money, and spending more on them could be easily accomplished if our lawmakers would hold off on spending, say, half a million bucks to renovate Lawrence Welk's boyhood home. So it is difficult to argue the Government ought act with austerity here when it spends money like drunken sailors on innumerable projects of absolutely no utility.


After the jump: the state dinner we should have held, and would have if I had been Maximum Leader.

White House Menu for the Dinner
for the Summit on Financial Markets
and the World Economy

(Revised as if Benjamin Kepple was Maximum Leader)


Royal Baerii Caviar (Fla.) and accoutrements
1996 Bollinger Grande Annee Prestige Cuvee

choice of:

She-Crab Soup (S.C.)
Fish Consomme (New England)


Broiled Maine lobster tails
with potatoes and vinaigrette



Filet mignon (the Plains)
with mixed vegetables or spinach sauteed in olive oil


Michigan salad


Creme brulee


A selection of fine American cheeses



NOTES: This meal plan is clearly superior to the White House's G20 summit meal for several reasons. Most notably, it recognizes state dinners can be used to send subtle hints to our friends and allies, plus nations we're somewhat annoyed with but with whom circumstances require we deal.

Take the starter, for instance. This should impress pretty much everyone and make them feel at home, and send a signal that we are honored to have them present, and care deeply about their ideas on how to solve the economic crisis. It will also send a signal to the Russians that we can produce caviar that's just as good as their sevruga and we would not care if the supply of Russian caviar suddenly dried up. And if we can produce caviar, maybe we can produce oil too. Try us, you bolshy scoundrels.

The soup course, with its choice of two soups, is a clear homage to proper service a la russe and should thus mollify the Russians after we started off the meal with the diplomatic equivalent of a kick under the table.

The fish course signifies that we do lobster better than anyone. It will also tell the Canadians we remain willing to argue over aquaculture just because we can, so don't oppose us just because you can, please.

The intermezzo -- a sorbet or something -- will impress stodgy foreigners *cough* Gordon Brown *cough*.

The beef course should please the South Americans and hopefully make them temporarily overlook the various excursions in their territories we've undertaken in the name of the Monroe Doctrine.

The salad is a classic Michigan staple, which should send a message to the Japanese that we do care deeply about our domestic auto industry and we'd appreciate it if they'd lay off a bit.

The pudding is a sop to Sarkozy. A clever protocol director would sit Sarkozy next to Berlusconi, just because everyone else at the dinner would want to see how Sarko responded to Berlusconi's inevitable outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease. By the time the cheese course came around, Sarkozy should be about ready to strangle Silvio, and the resulting diplomatic fireworks would divert attention from the fact we would probably fail to accomplish anything at the summit.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 21, 2008 09:30 AM | TrackBack
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