Smart Power: Obama Repeatedly Botches Dignitaries' Names on Foreign Trip

Posted: Nov 19, 2012 6:53 PM

President "Smart Power" at work.  Oops:

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. 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.  

These foibles were mentioned in the 20th paragraph of an Associated Press story entitled, "Obama Draws Crowd in Yangon."   Many of the preceding grafs were devoted to quoting adoring comments from Burmese citizens.  I wonder if these "cringe" worthy gaffes would have been relegated to afterthought status had they been committed by Obama's predecessor -- who, as we've all been endlessly informed, was "stupid."  By the way, these name snafus weren't Obama's only errors in his public appearances today.  The Weekly Standard notes that he identified the host nation as "Myanmar," which is the designation preferred by the nation's military junta (which has since ceded power to a "nominally civilian government"):

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.  

The White House says Obama bucked US policy and employed the military junta's preferred term as a "diplomatic courtesy."  Obama extended a similar courtesy to another undeserving actor in the recent past, angering our closest ally while he was at it.  Here's video of today's authoritarian accommodation, via Allahpundit:

I wonder what Suu Kyi was thinking as she heard the president mispronounce her name and hail her nation by the name imposed by the illegitimate government that imprisoned her.