The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

Obama’s faux pas

He’s been the president for less than 100 days! Give him a chance! This seems to be the all-too-typical response to criticism of the Obama administration. But after 84 grueling days, I feel that I can’t contain it any longer.

I don’t understand how Americans can hear about the multiple faux pas of their president and not become disenchanted with the man who was so charming and personable on the campaign trail.

While I believe that the United States needs a president who is a true leader and can make intelligent policy decisions for the betterment of the country, I also believe that we need a leader who isn’t so set on ingratiating himself with foreign leaders that he’s willing to embarrass himself and the entire country with actions that strike a horrific balance between foolishness and carelessness.

The first of these personal faux pas occurred with the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. During a press conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the foreign minister with a reset button as a symbolic gesture of wiping the slate clean of past Russo-American interactions. Upon seeing the label on the button, the foreign minister promptly informed Clinton that the translation was incorrect.

While the two played off the error well and continued the symbolic pushing of the button, I am forced to ask, “Can we not find anyone in our entire state department who is fluent in Russian?” Incidents like this should make Americans miss their former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, a major in Russian Studies who would not have made such an elementary mistake.

But this incident speaks volumes more than a simple mistranslation. The entire idea of the presentation of the reset button suggests not only to Russia but also to the rest of the world that the United States should apologize for its past interactions and should seek a fresh start. I cannot help but feel that the Obama administration, in its attempt to be cute, has undermined the position of the United States as an economic and military superpower.

It ought to be the Russians who present a reset button to us as an apology for their restrictions of the freedom of the press, their aggressive invasion of the sovereign state of Georgia last summer, and their lack of responsibility and reliability as the chief energy suppliers of Eastern Europe. In his desperate attempt to make amends, President Obama seemed to forget that the Bush administration took a hard line with certain countries for a reason.

But Obama’s imprudence does not end with Russia. Upon his visit with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Obama bowed to the king, a move that symbolically represents the subservience of one head-of-state to another.

The majority of Americans would likely not care if President Obama, who probably greets dozens-if not hundreds– of people each day, made such a mistake. But the inability of his administration to admit to such a faux pas and move on speaks volumes.

This showing of exaggerated politeness becomes a great deal more foolish when it is contrasted with the lack of solemnity that was shown to Prime Minister Gordon Brown upon his first meeting with President Obama.

As is customary between the heads-of-state of the United Kingdom and the United States, the two leaders exchanged gifts. From across the Atlantic, Prime Minister Brown brought a penholder that had been crafted from the timbers of the 19th century warship HMS President. The significance of this gift is magnified by the fact that the HMS President’s sister ship, HMS Resolute, provided the wood for the very desk that is used in the Oval office today. For President Obama’s daughters, Sarah Brown brought trendy dresses with matching jewelry.

In exchange for these majestic gifts, Obama gave the British prime minister a collection of 25 DVDs of classic American films. Ignoring the fact that these DVDs are incompatible with systems in Britain, the disparity between the thoughtfulness of the two gifts is obvious.

Is this the new policy of our president? Let us breach protocol in order to be overly friendly towards Saudi Arabia while simultaneously stomping on our widely recognized “special” relationship with the British by repaying kingly gifts with DVDs and an iPod for the Queen (and no, I’m not kidding about that last part).

People complained endlessly about Bush and his grammatical mistakes, mere slips of the tongue that demonstrate nothing more than a momentary blooper for a president who spent hours each day making speeches.

In contrast, the mistakes enumerated here are clearly thought out and planned beforehand. They are not only intentional; they will likely continue. These slip-ups are, in a word, deplorable, and are absolutely unacceptable for a man who sees himself as qualified to represent the most powerful nation on earth. These are elementary mistakes and, as Senator John McCain accurately stated, “We don’t have time for on-the-job training.”

Alex Ehmke is a freshman economics, political science, and public policy triple major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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