President Obama’s visit to Burma revealed once again some of his weaknesses as a world leader. Nile Gardiner sizes up Obama’s performance:
It is only two weeks since his re-election, and his second term remains two months away, but Barack Obama is already blundering again on the world stage, with the kind of gaffes that would have been plastered on the front page of The New York Times if they had been committed by George W. Bush when he was in the White House. …
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.
Obama also “botched” his greeting of Burma’s new president, according to the AP.
Obama’s next mistake was more substantive:
In addition, as The Weekly Standard notes, Obama was quick to use the Burmese regime’s preferred word “Myanmar”, to describe Burma, which is not the term officially used by the US government, or by Burma’s opposition activists. …
It is rather embarrassing, as well as sad, that the leader of the free world can’t even pronounce the name of the most famous human rights activist on the planet. Or that he is so quick to appease Burma’s authoritarian regime by calling it “Myanmar”. Barack Obama’s gaffes demonstrate not only a marked lack of attention to detail and a high degree of amateurishness on the part of the White House, but also a disturbing willingness to curry favour with unsavoury regimes.
I think the key here is lack of attention to detail, or, as I would put it, laziness. How many hours did Obama have on the flight to Burma to learn how to pronounce the names of the human rights activist and president whom he was scheduled to meet? Plenty. Yet he was too indifferent to get the job done. Having wrapped up his re-election campaign, Obama is finished with the only part of being president in which he takes much interest.