God Save The Queen...The Leftovers

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
(Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)
No cheeseburgers and onion rings for the Queen.

Though that was the menu at Camp David last month for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, the White House luncheon bill of fare today for HRH Elizabeth II was far more elaborate.

It began with a wild asparagus appetizer, seared baby sea bass and lemony risotto for the entree, and a salad of ruby red grapefruit sections, jicama and avocado. For dessert: a raspberry meringue with a dark chocolate sorbet.

Your tax dollars at work.

The menu for tonight's State Dinner menu is grander still. Even the dress code is a notch further up the protocol stepladder.

It's formal, of course, but mere tuxedoes won't do. It's white tie and tails for the men.

"It speaks to the very high level of respect the President and Mrs. Bush have for the historic relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain," explained Tarah Donoghue, the First Lady's press secretary.

But it's also reciprocal. When the Queen hosted a state dinner at Buckingham Palace for President Bush in November of '03, it was white tie there. At the time, Mr. Bush joked that his attire was rented.

Without question, the Queen is hard to impress. She's seen it all. Many times over.

This is her fourth state visit to the United States. And she's been the guest of honor at State Dinners dating back to 1957 during the Eisenhower Administration. Back then, she spent the night in the White House in what used to be called the Rose Guest Room. Its name has since been changed to the Queens' Bedroom – to reflect the many royal guests who have stayed there.

Actually, Elizabeth's first formal visit to the U.S. took place in October 1951. As a 25-year old Princess, she was received by then-Pres. Harry Truman. It's worth noting that at that time, the current president was five years old.

The Queen is Chief of State of the United Kingdom but she does not set government policy. That's the job of the Prime Minister. As a result, the British Monarch's visits to the U.S. are much more ceremony than substance.

Usually, a visiting leader joins President Bush at a press availabilty after their talks - but not the Queen. Though she's been on the throne since 1952, she's never held a news conference or given a news interview. That likely makes her the object of much envy among other foreign leaders.

Further, she never has to run for re-election. In fact, she needled Pres. Bush about that at the State Dinner she staged for him four years ago.

"Unlike in the United States, the British head of state is not limited to two terms of four years," she said in her dinner toast.

Well, Mr. Bush got in a little jab of his own this morning at the arrival ceremony for Her Majesty.

He was speaking of her previous visits to the U.S., noting that she has dined with 10 American Presidents.

But he came close to suggesting she was over 200 years old when he nearly said she came in 1776 – when he meant 1976.

After a few very pregnant moments, there was some nervous laughter amoung the 7000 guests on the South Lawn. And it sounded like the Queen said "Oh, dear."

Mr. Bush looked over at his guest to guage her reaction.

"She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child," he said.

More nervous laughter.

Even Spokesman Tony Snow admitted it was an unusual exchange.

"You saw the President joking with the Queen," he told his daily briefing. "I don't know that a lot of people joke with the queen, but the president did and it worked out just fine."

We'll see.

And though I was joking earlier that cheeseburgers and onion rings would not be served to the Queen, I may have overstated it.

When Elizabeth's parents made the first-ever visit to the U.S. by a reigning British monarch in 1939, then-President Franklin Roosevelt also received them at his family home in Hyde Park, N.Y. He served them hot dogs – cooked outdoors – picnic style.



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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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