De Wereldomroep interviewde mij over Obama’s blunder met het begroeten van wereldleiders. Zie hier. Morgenochtend om 08:30 uur ben ik daarover bij CNN in de uitzending. Spannend!
It appears that US President Barack Obama wants to be best friends with everyone; however, lavishing the same compliments on all and sundry does rather devalue the words and turn them into hackneyed cliches.
A YouTube film that went viral this week showed Barack Obama telling every visiting leader that they are“our most trusted allies,” and “punch above their weight.” Campaign strategist Kirsten Verdel says it is “lazy and careless.”
When Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited the White House six months ago, President Obama told him that the Netherlands was “one of our most trusted allies,” and the Netherlands is a country that “consistently punches above its weight.” The boxing metaphor means that the Netherlands achieves far more than one would expect from such a small country.
Glowing with such high praise, Mark Rutte was able to come home with head held high. However, an investigation by Danish television programme Detektor has revealed that Barack Obama’s boxing metaphor has also been used to complement the leaders of Denmark, Norway, Ireland and the Philippines. In fact, he’s used it so often that it is now groggy and sagging on the ropes. If he uses it once more, it’ll be on the canvas and out for the count.
When it comes to the “our most trusted ally” compliment, Obama is rather prone to repeating himself as well. The list of ‘most trusted allies’ is quite long and includes Australia, Poland, Great Britain, Germany, South Korea, Israel, France, Italy and Japan.
White House guests
According to campaign strategist Kirsten Verdel, who was the only foreigner on Obama’s campaign team for the 2008 election, the YouTube film is a combination of bad luck and laziness on Obama’s part. “I think you’d get pretty much the same thing if you gathered all of Mark Rutte’s speeches, or any political leader’s speeches, and ran them back to back.” She continues: “It is of course lazy and careless. Most of the free world has been to visit the US president and there is a relatively short preparation time for the meet-and-greet press conferences. Normally two or three important points are agreed on beforehand and both sides have to praise each other. That’s the bit that went seriously wrong.”
Verdel believes the YouTube film will shake up the Obama team. “In the past you could get away with quite a lot, but not these days; the entire world is watching. There’s even special software that can search speeches for specific words or phrases. The Daily Show uses it a lot. The Obama team will be forced to become a lot more creative.”
Obama might have to leave his favourite boxing metaphors in the dressing-room in future. Verdel:“If he’s smart, he’ll put it in a joke next time he uses it or he’ll have to give a big wink to the cameras.”
The US leader will have to be far more careful in conversations with foreign leaders as things went seriously wrong on Monday. Neither he nor Russian president Dmitri Medvedev realised that a microphone was live and recording a private conversation between the two men. The entire world now knows that Obama will have more “flexibility” to negotiate with Moscow on missile defence after the upcoming elections.