I don’t mean to pick on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is clearly better in the job than anyone John McCain would have appointed. Still, there was this story over the week-end.
Friday, Secretary Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Ever since the mini-war between Russia and Georgia — in which we sympathized with Georgia — our relations with Russia have been strained. To warm things up a bit, Clinton gave Lavrov a present, a big red button marked “reset.”
Ignore for a moment the sophomoric level of wit which presumed such a gimmick suited international diplomacy.
But something went wrong. As reported by BBC:
Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov a mock “reset” button, symbolising US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow.
As reporters watched, the US secretary of state assured her Russian opposite number her staff had “worked hard” to ensure it was accurate. “Was it right?” she inquired with a smile.
“You got it wrong,” Mr Lavrov responded, also smiling.
The word printed on the button, after so much staff work, was “peregruzka,” which means, according the Lavrov, something entirely different. It means “overcharged” or “overloaded.”
I can almost imagine what happened. Something which is “overloaded” might need to be… nah, it’s a fuck-up.
No one expects Secretary Clinton to understand the subtleties of the Russian language. We do have a right to expect she will have someone on her staff — at a time when she is traveling to visit the Russian Foreign Minister most especially — someone who DOES understand the subtleties of the Russian language.
Look again at Clinton’s line. Her staff worked hard to ensure the word was accurate. What do we have here, translation by committee? How can the US Secretary of State meet with the Russian Foreign Minister and not have with her someone who speaks fluent Russian?