Archive for the ‘Protocol’ Category

White House, State Dept Overuse of Political Advisors, Ignoring Experts is “Crazy, Dangerous”

March 24, 2009

Both Barack Obama and his inner staff of advisors and Hillary Clinton and hers, have already exhibited a tendency to rely heavily on political advisors instead of seasoned policy professionals and staff specialized in various nuances of national and international work.

President Obama’s repeated “talking down the economy,” including stressing the word ‘crisis’ and claiming that without the stimulus the nation faced ‘catastrophe,’ drew criticism from no less than Warren Buffett.

Then he switched course and urged confidence; but then he fueled the AIG lynching by expressing “outrage” which morphed into a disastrous House effort to levy a 90% tax on the AIG bonus recipients.

Senator Judd Gregg deadpanned today, “Americans started a revolution because a far off king abused his tax authority….”

Obama’s gift to Gordon Brown of the UK, a box of CD movies including “Star Wars,” was considered an insult by many in Britain.  When the PM tried to actually watch one of the flicks, his DVD player announced “Wrong Geographic Area.”

The White House didn’t even know or care that DVDs in Europe don’t use the same format as U.S. machines….

Hillary’s “Reset” button is another example.  Her political guys translated the word and got it wrong while real language and other experts at State were not consulted.  Why?

We question the entire “reset” line of thought.  Are we resetting to the Soviet era?

So beware the leaders so focused on politics and TV and without knowledge of the finer arts that experts bring….

A friend of ours in the State Department said, “Ignoring all our experts is crazy.  It’s dangerous.  It’s crazy-dangerous.”

Was it Joe Biden, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton that thought it was a good idea to encourage Russia to just hit the “reset” button?  Well, whoever….This is why we have experts in our government….

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button marked "reset" in English and "overload" in Russian.
Coffrini/Getty

*****************

From Politico

Hillary Clinton’s departure for the State Department was meant to end the era of Clinton drama, and to leave the turmoil of her campaign behind. But one former Clinton aide, now a senior adviser to Secretary Clinton, has brought at least some of that drama along with him.

State Department reporters and observers have been buzzing about the brewing conflict since her second foreign trip, earlier this month, to Europe and the Middle East. On that trip, her longtime Senate press secretary Philippe Reines – one of the combatants in Hillaryland’s long civil wars – took over as the political staffer charged with handling the press.

The trip was marked by tussles over information and access, but it became known for a high-profile blunder in Geneva on March 6. There, Clinton met Sergei Lavrov, the dour Russian Foreign Minister, and cheerily presented him with a large red button in a yellow case, with the words “Reset” and “Peregruzka” written on it.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked.

“You got it wrong,” said Lavrov.

The error appalled some in the State Department, because the button – which was inscribed in Latin script, not Cyrillic – hadn’t been assembled with the help of State’s cadre of Russian speakers and professional translators, but rather by Clinton’s small political team. The day of the event, people involved said, Reines showed the finished product to officials who spoke Russian, but who weren’t native, or up-to-date enough to catch the error in a word out of computer terminology.

Read the rest:
http://www.politico.com/news/st
ories/0309/20404.html

Related:
 Russia Pressing “Reset,” Medvedev Orders Military To Re-Arm

 Barack, Hillary: Moronic “Reset” Idea for Relations With Russia

 Russian Relations With U.S., Europe Improve: But Putin, Medvedev Understand Strength, Power More than Diplomacy

Obama, State Department, White House Staff, Hillary “Unaware,” “Overwhelmed” by Expectations
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Obama And The Fine Art of Political Nuances
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Fine Art Of Protocol, International Relations Lost On Obama?

Protocol: Brit Media Furious At Obama 

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers
.
Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

 Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”

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Obama, State Department, White House Staff, Hillary “Unaware,” “Overwhelmed” by Expectations

March 8, 2009

Bungle: : to act or work clumsily and awkwardly. 

Etymology: perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Icelandic banga to hammer.Well, President Obama and Hillary Clinton both hammered their roles as foreign relations dignitaries last week….

****************

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

Barack Obama’s offhand approach to Gordon Brown’s Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America’s economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.

Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.

The above quote comes from the Telegraph Newspaper in the UK.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa
/barackobama/4953523/Barack-Obama-too-tired-to-give-prope
r-welcome-to-Gordon-Brown.html

Bloggers in the UK and elsewhere are somewhere between bemused and ouraged:
http://www.politicalbyline.com/2009/03/07/can-som
eone-remind-me-as-just-why-exactly-we-elected-this-do
uche-nozzle/

*********************

Related:
Obama And The Fine Art of Political Nuances
Fine Art Of Protocol, International Relations Lost On Obama?

Protocol: Brit Media Furious At Obama 

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers
.
Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

 Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”
(Now we can add stupid….)

Hillary’s Benito Bungle

Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows on her first visit to Europe as secretary of state when she mispronounced her EU counterparts’ names and claimed U.S. democracy was older than Europe’s.

Clinton has set herself a gruelling pace on visits to Egypt, Israel and Brussels soon after touring the Far East, attending dozens of meetings and giving speech after speech, with little time worked into her schedule for sleep.

Tiredness appeared to show on Friday when she answered questions in front of 500 young Europeans at the European Parliament, where she was the highest-ranking U.S. visitor since the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

A veteran politician, Clinton compared the complex European political environment to that of the two-party U.S. system, before adding:

“I have never understood multiparty democracy. “It is hard enough with two parties to come to any resolution, and I say this very respectfully, because I feel the same way about our own democracy, which has been around a lot longer than European democracy.”

The remark provoked much headshaking in the parliament of a bloc that likes to trace back its democratic tradition thousands of years to the days of classical Greece.

One working lunch later with EU leaders, Clinton raised more eyebrows when she referred to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who stood beside her, as “High Representative Solano.”

She also dubbed European Commission External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner as “Benito.”

From Reuters and Canada.com:
http://www.canada.com/news/Solano+Benit
o+Democracy+Clinton+raises+eyebrows/1
361287/story.html

Barack Obama and Gordon Brown: Has Gordon Brown's meeting with Barack Obama restored his fortunes

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown walk down the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, Photo: AP

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. Emanuel famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”(Jim Young – UNITED STATES/Reuters)

Obama And The Fine Art of Political Nuances

March 7, 2009

We expected more from Barack Obama, maybe because he told us we could and should expect more.  And the media got behind him like nobody before, building expectations to astronomical heights.

Obama reiterated remarks from his presidential campaign just last week, saying:

“Given this reality, we’ll have to be more vigilant than ever in eliminating the programs we don’t need in order to make room for the investments we do need,” Obama said. “I promised to do this by going through the federal budget page by page, and line by line.  That is a process we have already begun, and I am pleased to say that we’ve already identified two trillion dollars worth of deficit-reductions over the next decade.”

Page by page and line by line: except for the 9,000 some earmarks in the omnibus spending bill now stalled in Congress.

This is not nuanced at all: it is a lie.  An Obama lie.  A Presidential lie.

It is brazen, as the Washington Post chose to label Obama for a Charles Krauthammer op-ed on Friday.

About as nuanced as Roland Burris and Rod Blagojevich.

Brazen is the opposite of nuanced.

But the media, enamored with Obama, has mostly elected to ignore such brazen language and conduct.

Bill Clinton was slightly more nuanced: “I did not have sex with that woman.”  Of course, that depended upon what one’s definition of sex is.

“That depends on what your defition of is is.”

Slightly more nuanced than Obama, anyway.

http://dcapritto.wordpress.com/
2009/03/07/72/

Monica Lewinsky?

International relations is the arena of understanding different peoples and cultures and one might expect that Barack Obama, with his wide ranging international background, along with America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her vast international experience, might understand international nuance.

Yet on Hillary’s first outing with one of America’s most difficult adversaries, she delivered a gift bearing an incorrect translation: an insult because it represents a lack of proper care in even properly translating one word.

What do we pay that big crowd at the State Department for, anyway?  Too expensive and porky, if they can’t get one word properly translated.  But I’m picky.

Barack Obama made a similar gaffe with America’s top ally, Britain, by presenting Gordon Brown at the White House with gifts not deemed suitable for the international stage.

Barack gave Gordon CDs, including the movie “Star Wars.”

Then, instead of a formal head of state side-by-side news conference with Gordon Brown, an event the Brits really desperately wanted, President Obama provided a very less formal (and some say demeaning to the Brits) sit down chat with Mr. Brown and the media.

This was a kind of White House bait and switch for Mr. Brown and his countrymen.

You can bet that at the top of the UK government, behind closed doors, someone said something like “That black Yank doesn’t get it.”

Which means he is too arrogant and brazen and not really nuanced at all.

Which is not al all helpful in international relations….

Good nuanced protocol and honesty costs nothing.  But casting them aside often has very real costs….

Related:
Brit View of Obama on Inauguration Day

President Barack Obama meets with British Prime Minister Gordon ... 
President Barack Obama meets with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2009.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Related:
http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/obama-
budget-reflects-campaign-promises-2009
-02-28.html

Fine Art Of Protocol, International Relations Lost On Obama?

Protocol: Brit Media Furious At Obama 

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers
.
Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

 Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”
(Now we can add stupid….)

Hot Air:
http://hotair.com/archives/2009/03/07/grea
t-news-obama-fumbled-brown-visit-because-he
s-in-over-his-head/

Charles Krauthammer called President Obama’s explanation of the current economic “catastrophe,” a word Obama himself coined, “the greatest non sequitur ever foisted upon the American people. ”

The “day of reckoning” has arrived. And because “it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament,” Obama has come to redeem us with his far-seeing program of universal, heavily nationalized health care; a cap-and-trade tax on energy; and a major federalization of education with universal access to college as the goal.

Amazing. As an explanation of our current economic difficulties, this is total fantasy. As a cure for rapidly growing joblessness, a massive destruction of wealth, a deepening worldwide recession, this is perhaps the greatest non sequitur ever foisted upon the American people.

At the very center of our economic near-depression is a credit bubble, a housing collapse and a systemic failure of the banking industry.

Read the rest:
Obama’s Brazen Deception: Why The Stock Market Won’t Recover Soon

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. White House nuance….(Jim Young – UNITED STATES/Reuters)

Fine Art Of Protocol, International Relations Lost On Obama?

March 7, 2009

When Rod Stewart visited Elton John for Christmas, he bought his fellow rock star an ice bucket. It was quite a nice ice bucket. It cost him £27 from Harrods. He wrapped it up and put it beside him as the two men settled down in the piano man’s lounge.

By Daniel Finkelstein
Times (UK)

“Rod,” announced Elton, while Stewart was waiting to hand over the bucket, “I’ve bought you a Christmas present.” And he handed Stewart his gift. “It’s a Rembrandt.”

This week, the difficult job of choosing a gift for a friend fell to Gordon Brown when he dropped in on President Obama.

Related:
Obama And The Fine Art of Political Nuances

It is customary for politicians to bear gifts when they pay a visit to their peers overseas. It’s always hard to choose. Winston Churchill gave his own pictures to Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. Mr Obama might not have greeted a landscape by Gordon Brown with similar rapture. On the other hand, he might have been more pleased with that than Mr Brown himself was to receive a leather bomber jacket from George Bush.

So Mr Brown settled on a pencil holder. This was not as Pooterish a selection as it sounds (or as Pooterish as the six wine glasses Harold Wilson gave Lyndon Johnson). For the holder was made of timber from HMS Gannet and will sit on Obama’s desk – a desk given to President Rutherford Hayes by Queen Victoria and made from the wood of a sister ship. How well did he do?

In his (wonderful, incidentally) book Influence, the leading social psychologist Professor Robert Cialdini considers why people give each other small gifts. It is to unlock our instinct to reciprocate favours. He provides an example. Hare Krishna followers at airports hand out free heather, pressing it on those who initially refuse. The heather is actually a nuisance to those who accept it and many sprigs are thrown in the bin, from which they are then retrieved by the Hare Krishna team and given to someone else. Extraordinarily, however, having accepted heather they don’t want and will dispose of immediately, travellers are far more likely to donate to the Hare Krishna group.

The conclusion from this is that the timing of the gift and of the requested reciprocation are more important than the gift itself. Cialdini often expresses his bewilderment at restaurants where mints are left for you at the exit, after you have already paid your bill and left your tip.

The professor does, however, have a further thought on gifts from the social psychology literature. One of the aims should be to establish that you and the recipient are very similar to each other, that you are like each other, that your experiences are similar. You might, therefore, buy someone who has moved from dry Chicago to wet Washington a very British umbrella.

The Brown present doesn’t do too badly. It does, after all, remind the President of the common history of Americans and Britons. And it does so daily, sitting on Mr Obama’s desk as a reminder of a favour done. Better than a bomber jacket, anyway.

Bankers aren’t the only profession whose confidence has been shaken by the credit crunch. Economists are looking a nervous group too. It isn’t so much a feeling that they should have been able to predict the crisis that gnaws at them. It is more concern that economics isn’t properly able to describe what has happened.

The result of this concern will surely be a surge of creativity as economists begin rethinking their ideas. The publication of an important new book – Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism – suggests that this is under way. The Nobel economist George Akerlof has teamed up with Professor Robert Shiller to argue that the fact that we are story-telling animals is central to understanding what went wrong. We told ourselves that what was in fact a price bubble was really the result of our own efforts and that rising house prices were a result of land shortages. We tenaciously stuck to those stories, as social psychologists would expect us to.

As intriguing, however, as the authors’ application of psychology to economic problems is what the book was missing. The authors seem – rather brilliantly – to have worked out some of the key psychological ideas from first principles. They don’t seem to have drawn all that much from the huge existing psychology literature. As a result there are some odd omissions. And the gaps emphasise that there is still a long way to go before the science of behaviour and the science of economies come together. As surely they must .

Comment from a yank:

There no mention of the paltry gift from Obama to the Prime Minister. As an American, I feel the US President showed disrespect for the US citizens as he is our current face abroad. He infered that we Americans do not respect the PM, which is false.

Jon Tinsley, Milton, Florida, USA

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com
ment/columnists/daniel_finkelstein/a
rticle5857191.ece

Related:
Protocol: Brit Media Furious At Obama 

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers
.
Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

Protocol: Brit Media Furious At Obama

March 7, 2009

President Barack Obama’s gift of a set of DVDs to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appalled the British media, furious about the lack of traditional protocol afforded to Brown while he was in Washington.

Iain Martin, a columnist and blogger for the Daily Telegraph, wrote that he found Obama to be rudeness personified toward Britain.

Martin tells NPR’s Robert Siegel that Britons are used to a full news conference when their prime minister is in town.

“Only at the last moment was it agreed that there would be a small press conference, and, I think, it was read as a metaphor for the concern that Obama really just didn’t like having the Brits in town,” Martin says. “Yes, he’s dealing with the biggest global crisis in 70 years.

“Still, it would have been nice if he could have welcomed Brown with just a hint more enthusiasm.”

From NPR:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s
tory.php?storyId=101561670&ft=1&f=1004

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers

A lot of people get paid a lot of money to prevent the kind of gaffe just made this week by President Obama and Hillary Clinton, America’s top two representatives to the world.  Usually they work in an office called “protocol.”

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

Related:
Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

March 6, 2009

For everyone working on their rsume to improve their hopes of getting a new job, take heart in the story of Hillary Clinton.

Sixteen years ago, Mrs. Clinton was made in charge of reforming health care by her husband, President Bill.

Her closed door meetings riled the opposition and her health care efforts went down in flames.

Now Hillary is reborn as America’s Secretary of State and diplomat in chief and Barack Obama has learned from Bill’s health care fiasco.  Barack is using the all inclusive hug everyone and keep the door open appraoch to health care reform.

Just to make sure health care makes it though the Congress, Barack is using the game plan so successful with the stimulus: Nanacy pelosi and her gamd will write the provisions of the new health care reform measure.

Meanwhile, the only person not under the health care tent, it seems, is Hillary Clinton.

She is in Russia dealing with what many consider a far tougher problem than health care: Russia.

Just aafter President Obama apparently promised Russia it would unilaterally disarm its missile defense efforts in Europe, in exchange for some mysterious Russian assistance to stop Iran’s nuclear program; Hillary arrived in Russia.

Hillary opened her meeting with a gift for her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The gift was supposed to reporest a “resetting” of U.S. and Russian ties.  The gift was a big red button with the word peregruzka printed on top. 

Hillary and her crack State Department team thought peregruzka meant “reset.”

Instead of “reset,” Lavrov said the word on the box meant “overcharge.” 

Go get ’em Hillary!  And kudos to the U.S. Department of State!

********************

By David Cloud
Politico

GENEVA—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened her first extended talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by giving him a present meant to symbolize the Obama administration’s vow to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russia relations.

She handed a palm-sized box wrapped with a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift: a red button on a black base with a Russian word peregruzka printed on top. 

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked. 

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said. 

Instead of “reset,” Lavrov said the word on the box meant “overcharge.” 

Clinton and Lavrov laughed. 

“We won’t let you do that to us,” she said. Trying to recover, Clinton said the new administration was serious about improving relations with Moscow. “We mean it, and we’re looking forward to it.” 

Lavrov said he would put the button on his desk and he and Clinton pushed the button together, before sitting down for their meeting.

A State Department official said the misspelling on the button was being corrected, in time for the post-meeting news conference.

Related:
 Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”
(Now we can add stupid….)
.
In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers

A lot of people get paid a lot of money to prevent the kind of gaffe just made by Hillary Clinton.  Usually they work in an office called “protocol.”

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

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, is helped ... 
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, is helped down the stairs by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after a joint press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. Clinton said Friday she hopes her first discussion with her Russian counterpart will begin a new era in U.S.-Russian relations without raising doubts about American support for European allies.(AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

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)

Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

February 13, 2009

When President Obama boarded Marine One for his first flight as commander-in-chief, he decided to break from tradition. Departing from the South Lawn of the White House for a trip to Williamsburg, Va., the new president extended his hand to a U.S. Marine standing in salute at the base of the helicopter’s steps.

The unscripted gesture forced the Marine to break his stance and shake the president’s hand before he returned to his posed position of hand at brow.

Like his predecessors, Obama must master the presidential protocol that has long ruled the White House. From military salutes to the presidential march to the customs by which foreign visitors are welcomed, every commander-in-chief must respect the traditions that have come to define the office.

“Protocol is diplomacy,” said Nancy Brinker, President George W. Bush’s former chief of protocol. “It’s about ceremony and custom and making sure the president and his office are represented properly as he travels the world.”

Related:
In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers

And should the president need help, he has a full-time coach like Brinker at his disposal to teach him the rules. The State Department — which first appointed a full-time protocol officer in 1916 — established the official Office of the Chief of Protocol in 1928.

The president is briefed on proper military protocol by the White House’s military office, which includes representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

But learning the proper etiquette doesn’t always come easy, said Brinker, who described the formalities as “just patterns you have to get used to.”

Bill Clinton was often criticized for his inability to snap a crisp salute — a gesture Obama appears to have  perfected already. Bush was a stickler for punctuality, while Obama has been teased for his frequent tardiness.

“[Bush] was fastidious about meeting on time. If you were late, you got left,” Brinker told FOXNews.com.

She recalled one occasion when Bush almost left Italy without her after she arrived “only a few minutes late” to the Vatican. “No matter how well-planned the day is, anything can happen,” Brinker said.

Obama is not the first president to depart from the traditional code of behavior.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan began saluting members of the U.S. military. Such salutes had always required the wearing of a uniform, and no American president — including former five-star Gen. Dwight Eisenhower — had ever before returned a salute.It is custom not to salute enlisted personnel or officers of lower rank.

Reagan, who took special pride in setting the new standard, later advised Clinton on how to refine it.

“The president generally has the ability to make decisions on how he would like to conduct business, and certainly there are customs that can be altered,” Brinker said.

Obama appears to be doing just that.

“When the president telephones senators, he simply picks up the phone and calls them directly,” said American historian Barry H. Landau, who served in the White House protocol office for nine presidencies. “Ordinarily, the chief of staff would do it and say, ‘Senator, the president’s calling.'”

Landau recalled that Jimmy Carter broke protocol while riding in an elevator with then-protocol chief Shirley Temple Black. When the doors opened, Black turned to Carter and said, “After you, Mr. President,” as was customary. But the president refused to walk in front of Black, saying, “as a Southern gentleman, after you,” Landau said.

“It was not the protocol and she didn’t go, so I finally pushed them both off the elevator,” he quipped.

But Landau cautioned that there is some protocol that a president should never breach.

Bush was roundly criticized when he gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an impromptu back rub during the G-8 summit in 2006.

Former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller once famously touched the back of the Queen of England as she danced at the White House — an embarrassing incident of “lese majeste,” as royalty cannot be touched.

“Protocol is supposed to make people feel comfortable,” said Landau.

And with the media’s constant presence and the speed at which a gaffe can reach the Internet, presidents need to be ever mindful of proper etiquette, he said.

“The presidents are absolutely more aware that any flub — or conversely anything done well — will be noticed immediately,” Landau said.

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….

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/us/pol
itics/25emanuel.html?_r=2&hp

On Biden:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28789980/