By: Nile Gardiner
It is only two weeks since his re-election, and his second term remains two months away, but Barack Obama is already blundering again on the world stage, with the kind of gaffes that would have been plastered on the front page of The New York Times if they had been committed by George W. Bush when he was in the White House. Obama’s first term was littered with foreign policy gaffes, and there is every chance the second term will be more of the same.
On his trip to Asia this week, President Obama struggled to pronounce the name of Aung San Suu Kyi, the most prominent human rights activist in the world. As The Associated Press reports (hat tip: Drudge Report):
As Obama stood next to the world’s most recognized democracy icon, he mispronounced her name repeatedly.
Ever gracious, Suu Kyi did not correct her American guest for calling her Aung YAN Suu Kyi multiple times during his statement to reporters after their meeting.
Proper pronunciation for the Nobel laureate’s name is Ahng Sahn Soo Chee.
Obama also “botched” his greeting of Burma’s new president, according to the AP:
The meeting came after Obama met with Myanmar’s reformist new President Thein Sein – a name he also botched.
As the two addressed the media, Obama called his counterpart “President Sein,” an awkward, slightly affectionate reference that would make most Burmese cringe.
Note to presidential advisers: For future rounds of diplomacy, the president of Myanmar is President Thein Sein – on first and second reference.
In addition, as The Weekly Standard notes, Obama was quick to use the Burmese regime’s preferred word “Myanmar”, to describe Burma, which is not the term officially used by the US government, or by Burma’s opposition activists.
President Barack Obama called Burma ‘Myanmar’ after a bilateral meeting with Thein Sein, the president of that country. From the pool report:
Obama used the word “Myanmar,” the preferred terminology of the former military government and currently nominally civilian government, in a spray following the bilat, rather than use “Burma,” the former name of the country, and the one preferred by Aung San Suu Kyi as well as the name the U.S. uses.
“I’ve shared with him the fact that I recognize this is just the first steps on what will be a long journey,” Obama told reporters, with Thein Sein at his side. “But we think a process of democratic and economic reform here in Myanmar that has been begun by the president is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities.
It is rather embarrassing, as well as sad, that the leader of the free world can’t even pronounce the name of the most famous human rights activist on the planet. Or that he is so quick to appease Burma’s authoritarian regime by calling it “Myanmar”. Barack Obama’s gaffes demonstrate not only a marked lack of attention to detail and a high degree of amateurishness on the part of the White House, but also a disturbing willingness to curry favour with unsavoury regimes. Hardly a good omen for Obama’s second term.