Saturday, October 03, 2009

Executive != Diplomat

What was he thinking?

Once I was my company's representative in a civil trial; I sat beside our outside counsel for three days listening to testimony on a matter of no importance herein, but of great important to my company both at that moment and in future, with regard to the precedent the judge's decision would set, and tried my darnedest to help our counsel interpret that testimony. She was very very smart, well versed in the law and in the particular subject of the trial, and a terrific presenter and cross-examiner; she did not need my help. But it's part of the process, I gather, to have a company rep present, and I was it.

So one guy was on the stand, and suddenly something he said set off big alarm bells in my head. I scribbled a question for our counsel to ask on my notepad and pushed it across to her, and on cross, she asked it. The guy answered - but it had been a while since I'd heard the alarm bells and jotted the question, and frankly his answer meant nothing to me - I hadn't written down the ramifications of what I expected his answer to be, because in the heat of the moment I was sure they'd be obvious. So there stood our counsel, thrown off by a meaningless answer to a question she hadn't planned to ask.

Fortunately she was no rookie; she shook herself a little, shook it off, and continued with the line of questioning she'd had planned. But after we finished for the day, she spoke sternly to me. The gist: Never ask a question unless you KNOW THE ANSWER FIRST. Court is not discovery.

And a President, the Chief Executive of the United States, is not a diplomat; he does not "do" diplomacy. In matters of high-level diplomacy (that is, matters that require the imprimatur of a head of state), the real diplomats do all the heavy lifting ahead of time, and the President shows up when the deal is done, to pretend that he or she is actually negotiating something but actually just to show how important this event is.

So what the heck, Mr. President? What on this earth could make you squander so much - so much time, credibility, resources, to risk your personal safety and that of your whole entourage, et cetera, et cetera - on the freaking Olympics? When you apparently didn't have them in the bag, so the perception would be a big V-for-Victory for the O-for-Obama team?

The Olympics? They were worth it? (I'd ask the same about the stupid global warming bash-the-Western-world-fest at the UN, but what's the point? To his side, nominally at least, "climate change" is indeed something requiring the attention of heads of state - even though none of them actually act as if they believe it.)

<rubbing temples>Oi veh.

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