Tuesday night’s state dinner was yet another occasion for the media to fumble around in the basket of superlatives for the Obamas. In a typically unctuous passage on Wednesday, Washington Post writers Robin Givhan and Roxanne Roberts declared the First Lady had brought sexy glamour back to the capital:
The first lady, however, was the star of the show. She glittered in a strapless silver, embroidered gown by the Indian-born designer Naeem Khan. She wore her hair swept back and had piles of sparkling "churis," traditional Indian bracelets, on her wrist. Her ensemble announced that no-holds-barred, Hollywood-style sexy glamour had arrived in Washington.
Left unsaid (but implied): Laura Bush was a sexless, paint-by-numbers wallflower. NPR reporter Andrea Seabrook filed a giddy story on her personal feelings for Wednesday’s Morning Edition that delved into Shakespeare for inspiration: ‘The whole room had a kind of ‘Midsummer Night's Dream’ feeling." Seabrook also thought Mrs. Obama was just perfect:
By now, Mrs. Obama is expected to be the perfect mix of personable and formal, poise and personality, and she did not disappoint. She looked stunning in a glittering strapless dress, the color of champagne, her arm lined with dozens of Indian bangle bracelets twinkling in the camera flashes. It was a detail that reminded you that this dinner was an international affair and that while by now Americans are used to saying President Obama, the rest of the world is still impressed by his election to the nation's highest office.
Even NPR knew this was a rave review. The headline on its website was "State Dinner Perfect Mix Of Personable, Formal." Note the dazzled "best party ever" tone Seabrook uses, as if she was on the guest list, not in the press pool:
WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentleman, the president of the United States and Mrs. Michelle Obama accompanied by his Excellency the Prime Minister of the Republic of India and Mrs. Kaur. (Soundbite of "Hail to the Chief")
SEABROOK: The two couples glided into the darkened room and began greeting guests. Director Steven Spielberg, entrepreneur David Geffen, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There were also many prominent Indian Americans: Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, physician and author Deepak Chopra, and many more.
President OBAMA: Good evening, everyone. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. (Hindi spoken)
SEABROOK: In Hindi, you are welcome here. The tables, draped in apple green linens with vibrant purple centerpieces and flickering candles, were spread throughout a tent on the south lawn of the White House. The ceiling was vaulted and transparent, and 12 enormous chandeliers hovered below, their arms wrapped in ivy. The whole room had a kind of "Midsummer Night's Dream" feeling, and the president seemed to echo that in his toast.
OBAMA: For it's been said that the most beautiful things in the universe are the starry heavens above us and the feeling of duty within us. Mr. Prime Minister, today we work to fulfill our duty, bring our countries closer together than ever before.
SEABROOK: Mr. Obama spoke of the more than two million Indian-Americans in this country, with leaders in science, history, art, and government. He likened the two country's great moral leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, and he toasted to the future of the United States and India. Prime Minister Singh responded.
SINGH: We are overwhelmed by the warmth of your hospitality, the courtesy you have extended to us personally, and the grace and charm of the first lady. Mr. President... (Soundbite of applause)
SEABROOK: Singh tried to go on, but -- spontaneous applause from the dinner guests praising First Lady Michelle Obama. By now, Mrs. Obama is expected to be the perfect mix of personable and formal, poise and personality, and she did not disappoint. She looked stunning in a glittering strapless dress, the color of champagne, her arm lined with dozens of Indian bangle bracelets twinkling in the camera flashes. It was a detail that reminded you that this dinner was an international affair and that while by now Americans are used to saying "President Obama," the rest of the world is still impressed by his election to the nation's highest office. Singh said it best.
SINGH: Mr. President, your journey to the White House has captured the imagination of millions and millions of people in India. You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity, and equal opportunity. (Applause)
Amazing. An NPR reporter is sitting at a state dinner pinching herself that Obama was elected president, and that the world is still oh so impressed -- like she is. She doesn't suggest skepticism for a second, that perhaps a savvy politician knows that flattering Obama as a world-class inspiration is the best way to get what you want. No, the Indian prime minister "said it best" for her, that Obama inspires the globe.
This is where you laugh at the idea that National Public Radio is daringly independent, and wouldn't sound like an obsequious state-run publicity service for our leaders.
(Hat tip: Michael B.)