Archive for the ‘awkward’ Category

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers

January 25, 2009

When Vice President-elect Joe Biden returned from a trip to Pakistan and other points just before the inauguration, a press conference was hurridly planned to allow the President-elect to thank his number two before the media and America.  After Barack Obama’s gushing praise, the number two closed the event with words of his own.  He got the last word.

When President Obama asked Vice President Joe Biden to administer the oath of office to  members of the White House staff, the VEEP said, “Am I doing this again? Oh! For the senior staff. My memory’s not as good as Justice Roberts’ … Chief Justice Roberts.”

It was a joke or a senior moment or the combination of the two.

But the president was not amused.

Protocol and dacorum are the opposite of awkward and foolish rolled into disrespectful and inappropriate.

US Vice President Joe Biden gestures while US President Barack ... 
US Vice President Joe Biden gestures while US President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 21 in Washington, DC.(AFP/Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski)

There have been awkward moments before at the White House and in presidential administrations and sometimes they cause pain and embarrassment to visiting dignitaries.  Sometimes they detract from years of great diplomacy.

Just ask Hu Jintao, President of China, after he was introduced at the White House during a Bush hosted ceremony as the President of the “Republic of China,” which most of us know as Taiwan.  President Bush added to the lack of protocol and decorum that day by manhandling President Hu toward the exit to the stage, a “touching” just not allowed  — except maybe for children.

So there are a lot of opportunities for success when one stands in the ever present spotlight.  And there are plenty of opportunities for embarrassment….

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior ... 
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior to the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, in Washington, January 20, 2009.(Jim Young – UNITED STATES/Reuters)
From The New York Times

By Mark Leibovich

Early this month, Barack Obama was meeting with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and other lawmakers when Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, began nervously cracking a knuckle.

At which point, Mr. Emanuel held the offending knuckle up to Mr. Obama’s left ear and, like an annoying little brother, snapped off a few special cracks.

The episode, confirmed by Mr. Emanuel’s office, underscores some essential truths about Mr. Emanuel: He is brash, has a deep comfort level with his new boss, and has been ever-present at Mr. Obama’s side of late, in meetings, on podiums and in photographs.

There he was, standing at President Obama’s desk in one of the first Oval Office pictures; and again, playfully thumbing his nose at his former House colleagues during the inauguration; there he was, accompanying the president to a meeting with Congressional leaders on Friday.

Mr. Emanuel is arguably the second most powerful man in the country and….

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