Scandal looms at the White House

President Bush, already beset on all sides of his administration by scandal, is courting yet another one even if he doesn’t know it yet.  The 1000 rupee question is, “will he or won’t he show up to the White House Diwali celebration?”  He has opted out of Diwali festivities on all previous occasions.   New reports:

The United States India League has urged U S President George W Bush to attend the annual Diwali celebration in the White House noting that his presence would ”send the right signals to his friends in India and the Indian American community”.

”Merely going through the motions of having a proforma Diwali celebration would not be enough. Diwali is Hinduism’s most importance observance. The White House celebration should reflect that,” the League director Don Feder said in a release yesterday.

The White House is all set to celebrate Diwali, one of the holiest of Hindu festivals on November 1.

Although Diwali has been celebrated in the White House twice before during President Bush’s first and second term, it has always been an unofficial one, with a lot of prodding from the influential Indian Americans with friendly ties to the US Congress and the White House.

President Bush himself has not attended the occasion as he has been out of town on both the previous occasions.


p>Well what about the good Prime Minister from across the pond?  Will there be a party at the British Parliament?

Over 100 British lawmakers, senior ministers and diplomats are expected to attend the Diwali celebrations at the House of Commons, Lower House of Parliament, on Thursday… Guests at the reception will include over 100 Parliamentarians, ministers and cabinet secretaries, diplomats, business and community leaders and civil servants, the organisers said on Saturday night.

In a message to the Forum, Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “This festival has an important role. It gives every one of us a chance to reflect on the important contribution that your communities are making to Britain’s success. This is something for us all to celebrate…” [Link]


p>Ahh, good ole’ Blair.  Articulate as ever.  Sometimes I wish he was our leader.  What about our kind neighbors to the north, eh?

Last Thursday, the festival of lights was celebrated in the Canadian Parliament where the prime minister, Paul Martin, and the Leader of the Opposition, Stephen Harper, joined the Indians on the joyous occasion.

In this sixth edition of this festival in the nation’s Parliament, more than 300 people, including ministers, MPs, diplomats and dignitaries joined in to partake of the festivities. [Link]

I don’t know about you guys but I am following the White House daily briefing transcripts and waiting for the one-track uncle to earn his money.


p>From last year:


p>Q — Diwali celebration at the White House. But, really, I’m getting all the emails and letters all the –


p>MR. McCLELLAN: Goyal, I –


p>Q — Scott, I’m’ sorry to interrupt you — that there is plenty of bad publicity against the White House in India and in the — among Indian Americans, at least those in the U.S. But I am still thanking the White House and the President for giving a (inaudible) to these people, to come into the White House, and even if it were not a Diwali celebration, but it was just a briefing –


p>MR. McCLELLAN: And this may be the first administration, or one of the first administrations to really do that, too.


p>Q But what I’m saying really here, contradicting, did somebody goof at the Asian Pacific Department at the White House, public liaisons office that (inaudible) message — it said from the President, dated July 19, 2004, Diwali was on November 10th.


p>MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll be glad to take a look at it. I haven’t seen that letter, but bring it to me, and we’ll look into it.


p>Q We like to give some positive, really not negative –

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has a very positive record of outreach to the African — I mean, to the Indian American community here in America, and certainly he has a great working relationship that he’s built over the last four years with India.

37 thoughts on “Scandal looms at the White House

  1. I’m not a fan of GW, but I dont think it is fair to compare his involvement with the South Asian community to Tony Blair’s. If South Asians are the biggest minority group in your country, of course your going to celebrate their holidays, be it Diwali, Vaisaki, or Ramadan.

  2. 1 Corinthians, chapter 8: As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

    1 Corinthians, chapter 10: But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.


    But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof

    of course, bush isn’t up for reelection, but he is a believer who supposedly reads the bible every day.

  3. MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has a very positive record of outreach to the African — I mean, to the Indian American community here in America, and certainly he has a great working relationship that he’s built over the last four years with India.

    lmao. Whatever McClellan said or was trying to say, it doesn’t matter since I don’t know of any “positive outreach” Bush has done to the African-American or the Indian-American community. However, I can think of several of his policies that have hurt both communities. (Patriot Act, Response to Hurricane Katrina, etc.)

  4. I was rasied to believe Diwali was the day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after killing Ravana – also known as a triumph of GOOD over EVIL.

    So if you’re a person who sees Bush as an evil force (like the majority of the WORLD), then it seems odd that Bush would celebrate Diwali…if you see Bush as a force for “GOOD,” then you have to ask yourself what EVIL has he destroyed? Bin Laden is still around, Saddam is alive and on trial, Dick Cheney is still Vice President…

    To me, I hope this week reveals U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as the harbinger of GOOD, the man who best embodies the spirit of Rama, and brings some integrity and maturity back to the Republican party, and the nation as a whole.

    Our nation, Iraq, and the world have been through enough.

    Let’s hope law, order, and the spirit of good triumph this Diwali in Washington DC, and all over the Earth.

  5. Hey may do so but I doubt it. It wouldnt win any brownie points umpopular with a major constituent of bush wing republicans -ie evangelical christians. Their consanguity with islam,judaism, makes presidential ascociation more acceptable but they would totaly flip out on accomodations to hindu,jain,sikh,buddhist,zarushthari,and others.

    Also Desis arent in the republican camp in big numbers. He can punt for now and he doesnt lose much.

    Desis should try to get white house in on Holi instead of Diwali.

  6. Big deal – we didn’t celebrate Diwali in our Bengali home, our family in Calcutta doesn’t, and almost none of our Bengali friends did either. In their urge to garner a higher profile for IAs, I hope certain groups don’t impose a rather bland, conformist notion of IAs.

  7. well, census 2000 said there were 1.7 million indian americans. assume they are all hindu. assume they all celebrate diwali. thaz 0.6% of the population. take into account that there are say, 40 hindu states, and i don’t think it is that irrational for bush to not emphasize this holiday.

    n their urge to garner a higher profile for IAs, I hope certain groups don’t impose a rather bland, conformist notion of IAs.

    how else are browns going to get any pull? that is the nature of identity politics,

    1) emphasize difference between outgroup and ingroup 2) quash difference within the ingroup

    the roman catholic church heirarchy in the united states was predominantly irish american and irish for most of the 19th and 20th century, and it had a long history of suppressing distinctive traditions brought over from germany, italy and the slavic nations. they created an “american” roman catholicism which was drawn in large part from 19th century irish motifs and practices. the germans spent many decades dissenting from this “hiberian tyranny,” but the two world wars destroyed any hope of germans appealing to rome to preserve their distinctive church culture.

    power has its price.

  8. KXB-

    I’m Bengali as well, and Bengalis in general don’t celebrate Diwali, they have Durga Puja.

  9. “Bengalis in general don’t celebrate Diwali, they have Durga Puja.”

    Reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to a redneck bar:

    Homer: You got any Duff?

    Bartender: We don’t have Duff. We’ve got Fudd.

  10. i remember when my parents would be the only bengalis at a party where everyone else was from pakistan or india (all muslims) and the issue of urdu would come up because some pakistani would note how they didn’t have time to teach their kids punjabi or sindhi (their native tongue) in addition to urdu. my dad would lose it and start yelling at everyone and shit, because he’d say “just because you guys think urdu is the bomb and your kids are fine not knowing punjabi or gujarati, etc. etc., don’t expect us to be like that! we’re bengali and we’re not like you! if we have to pick between urdu and bengali we’ll pick bengali every time!” it was pretty funny.

  11. oh, and btw, one of my first brown related emails to manish was based on this essay he wrote a while ago: Indian American culture is far too focused on gender. Like our gendered languages, we lead gendered lives in which every step, every option is determined by an accident of birth.

    i was like, “hey buster, bengali isn’t gendered. 200 million of us ain’t a triviality.”

  12. oh, and to make my dad seem less like a volatile psycho than he is, his outburst would usually be in response to someone who was like, “oh, your kids don’t know urdu? why not?” (my dad knows fluent urdu, he went to school in west pakistan as it was known then)

  13. Actually KXB, I think that joke in the Simpsons was to poke fun at how rednecks are backwards, rather than how FFud and Duff are the samething. As for Diwali and Durga Puja, they are not the samething. Diwali focuses on Laxshmi and Vishnu, while Durga Puja focuses on Durga. When you stated that I just wanted to make it clear that Bengalis don’t celebrate Diwali incase you didnt realize that. I see what your saying about the bland conformist notion of IAs, but I think when you make up less than a percent of the population thats all you can hope for.

  14. re: generation of identity, consider afrikaners, they managed to wrest s. africa from anglo domination after world war ii (and started to move toward dominance early 20th century) by creating a self-image as dutch settlers in africa. in the reality is that most of the ancestors of afrikaners were not dutch, the most numerous were likely germans, with huguenot french only being a bit less numerous than the dutch. and then there is the issue of the 5% of afrikaner ancestry which is almost certainly non-white (khoisan, indian and malay).

  15. Razib sure writes a lot, doesn’t he?

    i program and do sysoping on the computer a lot. and don’t read any other blogs with comments ‘cept sepia mutiny. and i am a decently fast typist (110 WPM range).

  16. Razib sure writes a lot, doesn’t he?

    and bless that atheist for it, he’s 55% of the reason why our comments don’t suck. :)

  17. i don’t think it is that irrational for bush to not emphasize this holiday

    Razib – If 0.6% is not a good number for you, what is?

  18. While the deities are different, the timing of the two holidays is not mere coincidence. It is harvest time, and for centuries, this was the time of year when the brutal summer was over, food was gathered, and it was considered appropriate to honor the gods. That the gods differ from Bengal to Gujarat should not surprise us, with specialized folklore and langauage for each deity. But the impetus for both is largely the same.

  19. Besides the 1.7 m India immigrants, of which 80% may be Hindu, there are also immigrants from Canada, Fiji, the UK and the Carribean (which together may top 200,000–anyone have data?) Then there are white converts as well. I’ve not seen good data on this group, but have met very many. The Hindu American Foundation, uses 2 million as its “official” estimate.

    Indian American doctors have contributed heavily to Republicans, a very substantial percentage of private donations have come from them.

    With India-US interests aligned for the forseeable future, with growing political clout, I predict robust white house diwali celebrations.

  20. Why does GW have a bruise on his face?

    Yes, it is from his bicycle fall a year or two ago. It is the stock picture that most comes in handy when you want to convey that the president is under siege. I still think it was because he got out of line with Laura…or maybe Cheney.

  21. I think 3 year olds make that face when they screw up, get hurt, and want to distract you from calling them on it…

  22. Thank you for the explanation. I thought he might be joining the fight against Hepatitis C and becoming their new poster boy. :)

    NYC-Subway’ers know what what I’m talking about.

    Others can read about it in the last few paragraphs here

  23. Razib – If 0.6% is not a good number for you, what is?

    2%. weighted by

    1) how much money they give 2) how important they are in battleground states 3) how much they vote for his party

    hindus have no shot on #2, they live in strong democratic or republican (mostly texas) states. #3, though i don’t by the “90% voted democratic” number, i doubt a majority voted republican (in addition to low voter participation which is likely, as asian americans are below the median). that leaves #1. i’m skeptical that the brown doctors gave that much, but i don’t know.

    there is an easy way for hindus to catch bush’s eye: kill 3,000 americans in a religiously motivated attack. then he’ll start talking about how “hinduism means peace.”

  24. there is an easy way for hindus to catch bush’s eye: kill 3,000 americans in a religiously motivated attack. then he’ll start talking about how “hinduism means peace.”

    He would then convince america to attack Thailand, “to fight the terrorist there so that we dont have to fight them here”.

  25. i’m skeptical that the brown doctors gave that much, but i don’t know.

    I recall that for Bush Sr. Indian-American doctors gave him some 60% of his soft dollars (prior to election campaign reform).

    Can’t find any stats for this election (I can’t bill Google time) but quickly found this article on the Mallu Zach Zachariah Indian Republicans in Florida Wield Their Clout in National Politics. He may have been blogged on sepia.

    India West, News Report, Sunil Adam, Nov 08, 2004

    Dr. Zach Zachariah may be a man of considerable influence, but he’s not a very attentive host. Some might consider it sheer audacity to invite George H.W. Bush to dinner and serve him broccoli – even a political novice will tell you that the 41st president of the United States hates that much-misunderstood vegetable. But Zachariah did just that when he hosted Bush 41 and Florida Governor Jeb Bush at a fund-raiser for President George W. Bush at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, recently.

    Bush Sr. was more than tolerant with his host when he joked about the dreaded vegetable on his plate while addressing the 100-odd guests who had paid anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000 each for an indifferent menu consisting of shrimp salad, medium-rare steak and, of course, broccoli. There was a good reason why the patriarch of the American political dynasty was so gracious – the evening netted over a $1 million for his son’s presidential campaign.

    But Bush 41 went further than mouthing mere niceties and told “Zach,” as friends refer to the cardiologist, that he and his wife Barbara “love him.” Even his governor son was effusive in his praise for the doctor who has been among the top fund-raisers for the Grand Old Party for over a decade.

    Saying this was the last fund-raiser for anyone in the Bush family, now that both his brother and he cannot run for their respective offices because of term limits, Gov. Bush thanked “Zach” for opening his house many a time for the Bushes. “Bush supporters flock to Zach’s house like migratory birds,” he said. Zachariah has held several fund-raisers at this house for all three Bushes – 41, 43 and Jeb.

    Zachariah is not the only one who enjoys such influence with the Bushes or the Republican Party. In fact, Indian American doctors in Florida, a dozen-odd of whom were present at the fund-raiser, have carved out a niche for themselves in the GOP nationally and are wielding influence far disproportionate to their numerical strength.

    If their professional accomplishments and the correspondent wealth afford them the influence, their ideological identification with the Republicans spurs their activism. Take, for instance, Dr. Raghavendra Vijayanagar of Tampa and Dr. Akshay Desai of St. Petersburg, who along with Zachariah were the prime movers of the Indian American Republican Council, a not-for-profit organization that lobbies Congress on issues related to U.S.-India relations and the Indian American community.

    Both are deeply involved in Republican politics and are highly motivated in rallying the community toward the GOP and also influencing the federal government’s policies toward India and Indian Americans. Desai, who is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, regards Indians as natural allies of the Republican Party.

    Disputing the popular assertion that affluent Indian Americans gravitate toward the Republicans, Desai feels the traditional Indian commitment to family ties, education and even faith, makes it easier for them to identify themselves with conservative values.

    Arguing that Republican ideology provides a better chance for people to realize the American Dream, Desai reasons one should not look at it only in material terms. Realizing the real American Dream involves participating in all aspects of the civil society, he says.

    Before offering some convincing arguments, Vijayanagar, who is regarded by the Indian community in Florida as a godfather-like figure, says that historically Indians are closer to the elephant rather than the donkey. On a more serious note, he says Indians’ inherent genius, ability for hard work and enterprise results in their identifying with an ideology that promotes the individual rather than the government.

    A self-made man who came to the U.S. decades ago with a $20 bill in his pocket, Vijayanagar drifted away from the Democratic Party 20 years ago. He is now an ideologue who sees the commonalities between Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi as the foundations of Indian American Republicanism.

    Why is it that these Indian American leaders, who wield so much clout in the Republican Party, do not run for elected office themselves but are content to be the backroom boys? After all, these Florida doctors have both recognition and goodwill that reach beyond the Indian community, which in fact, is rather small in the Sunshine State as compared to, say, New York or California.

    Zachariah laughs it off saying that he’s quite content doing what he does. But his eldest son Reggie is not so sheepish about his political ambitions. The 24-year-old financial analyst, who like his younger brother Alex has not followed his father into the medical field, says he is likely to pursue public life in a few years.

    Like the young Zachariahs, the three Desai children also display considerable interest in politics, although they are much younger. In fact, 12-year-old Parth Desai accompanied his father to the fund-raiser and engaged the former president in a brief conversation during the photo-op.

    One can be certain that with a pedigree in academic excellence, professional success and ideological commitment, the second generation of Indian American Republicans will be something to watch out for.


  26. Diwali festival? Fuck the Diwali festival. Now, I love India and Indian people, but why would any US president make that a priority? You don’t think every ethnic group and nation on earth has some special day that they feel the US president should make some room for? I’d rather George Bush spent all his free time figuring out how to get our troops back home, ASAP.

  27. looks like Z.Zachariah’s chickens are coming home to roost. He is accused tday, 5/12/08 of insider trading like Martha Stewart. What a shocking let-down for our people.