SOMBER TIMES: As the Israel-Hamas war continues, the White House toned down Wednesday night’s state dinner for Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
In lieu of the planned performance by the ’90s band The B-52s, military bands played instrumental music during the seated dinner for 300. The South Lawn gathering was the fourth state dinner to be hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. Albanese was accompanied by his partner, Jodie Haydon.
The president was reportedly informed of Wednesday night’s mass shooting in a few locations in Lewiston, Maine, before the state dinner and received updates during the event. He is familiar with the area, having launched his administration’s “Invent it here, make it here” initiative at Auburn Manufacturing in late July.
Even before news of what is believed to have been the country’s 565th mass shooting this year spread, the state dinner had been scaled back. NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell described the White House event as “appropriately” subdued because of the violence and conflict in the Middle East, according to a White House pool report. She also noted that Jill Biden had made the call to cancel the music performance.
Many of the guests at the state dinner were Washington insiders like Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) seconded Mitchell’s approval of the change in music. He told the pool reporter that the Israel-Hamas war was “very much on our mind,” adding that his parents had fled “the Nazis in the 30s. All got out. We lost family in Kristallnacht and Theresienstadt.”
Other attendees included Dreamworks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg; Jane Lauder; actor John Leguizamo; the U.S. ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, and her husband Edwin Schlossberg; author Joe Kahn. Biden’s granddaughters Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy, as well as Seal’s assistant-turned-girlfriend Laura Strayer. Australian rapper Kid Laroi helped to lower the average age on the guest list a twinge. FLOTUS wore a Reem Acra silver gown with embroidered leaf motifs. The New York-based designer created one of the three dresses that Biden’s granddaughter Naomi had worn for her White House wedding festivities last November.
For Albanese’s official arrival ceremony earlier Wednesday, Jill Biden sported an all-custom ensemble — a raspberry-colored custom Carolina Herrera wool snap-front jacket with a satin lapel and high-waisted skinny pants with a slim satin belt and a brooch in the shape of Australia’s national flower, the Golden Wattle. FLOTUS’ arrival attire was made exclusively for her by Herrera’s creative director Wes Gordon.