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July 31, 2009
Obama invites CEO's to lunch; makes them buy
This is almost like a bad joke from a movie. You're invited to a fancy restaurant for dinner and, after the meal, the host who set the rendezvous up in the first place is supposed to pay the bill.
Now, we've all been out to dinner where the check makes the rounds until somehow, it lands on your plate and everyone has scrammed. But in this case, it's the president of the United States who committed the manners faux pas of billing his guests for a lunch he invited them to.
Eamon Javers of Politico has the strange story:
Four of the most powerful business leaders in America arrived at the White House one day last month for lunch with President Barack Obama, sitting down in his private dining room just steps from the Oval Office.
But even for powerful CEOs, there's no such thing as a free lunch: White House staffers collected credit card numbers for each executive and carefully billed them for the cost of the meal with the president.
The White House defended the unusual move as a way to avoid conflicts of interest. But the Bush administration didn't charge presidential guests for meals, one former official said, and at least one etiquette expert found the whole thing unseemly - suggesting it was a serious breach of protocol.
"I'm sure they have their political reasons for doing that, but I think it's not what quote, hospitality, unquote is all about," said Letitia Baldrige, who headed Jacqueline Kennedy's White House staff in the early 1960s. "We've got to relax about this. To have people to the White House and worry about the price of things is laughable."
"Laughable" describes much of the Obama presidency, come to think of it.