WASHINGTON: It’s not every day that the US President drops by for dinner at the home of an ordinary resident, much less an Indian-American entrepreneur, but Vinod Khosla is no regular Joe. The famed Silicon Valley venture capitalist, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and initiator of many green enterprises, hosted President Obama at his Portola Valley home on Thursday night amid a political firestorm in Washington over US government surveillance of private citizens.
The intimate dinner with New Delhi-born Khosla, his wife Neeru, and selected guests that included three key US Senators, was part of Obama’s fundraising for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It cost the exclusive attendees a small matter of $32,400 per head. Earlier in the evening, the President stopped by at the Palo Alto home of Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, where entry was a more modest $2500 per head.
Khosla, a green guru, now a well-known figure in Washington DC circles, is obviously in with the Democratic Party. A White House transcript of Obama’s remarks indicated that the Khosla entire family, including his four children, was at the event, along with what were evidently two very big dogs. “I want to thank Vinod and Neeru and the entire family — and these beasts — for hosting us here today. These two could eat Bo in one gulp,” Obama was quoted as saying amid laughter. Bo is the Presidential First Dog.
The President headed out mid-week to California, where his main agenda is a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinpin. But he also took in a couple of fundraisers and pitched his health care initiatives ahead of the meeting, which has already become a hotly debated topic in diplomatic circles in Beijing and Washington for the perceived snub by Michelle Obama to the Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, who is accompanying her husband to California.
The US First Lady is staying back in Washington to be with her daughters Malia and Sasha, who are finishing their school year, rather than go with her husband for the big bilateral, a decision which reportedly has caused much anguish and heartburn in Chinese circles. The Chinese First Lady, who has been dubbed the “Kate Middleton of China” for her fashionable public appearances, is an acclaimed singer who has taken on a more public and glamorous role than spouses of previous Chinese leaders.
But even this kerfuffle has paled before the growing controversy over the perceived breach of civil liberties by the Obama administration in pushing government surveillance, putting the President on the backfoot in talks with the Chinese leadership that is expected to include Beijing’s cybersnooping.