While The New York Times continues its series chronicling internal State Department documents recently released by WikiLeaks, and while other news outlets publish lists of what they deem to be the most significant revelations to emerge from the leaked material, Fresh Rhetoric’s National Affairs Correspondent, Don Chubaleevit, has spent the past several days poring over the cache of cables, telexes, and demarches, hoping to find some lighter, human-interest-type divulgements that more serious journalists might have ignored or overlooked.
According to Chubaleevit, the review process has been grueling. This latest trove of WikiLeaks documents consists of more than 250,000 pages–several without pictures. Nevertheless, while his review is still in its relatively early stages, he has thus far uncovered–buried among the predictable, headline-grabbing revelations about Pakistani duplicity, Chinese obstructionism, and North Korean petulance–these obscure tidbits of a decidedly less consequential sort:
—State Department personnel manuals warn all employees not to refer to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as “Hill.” Oddly, though, in a written protocol dating back to the tenure of Henry Kissinger (and still presently in effect), referring to the Secretary as “Judy” is acceptable.
—At a European summit in the fall of 2008, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stunned his counterparts when, from across the table during an informal dinner session, he asked of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, “So, Angela, what would you do if I came up behind you and rubbed your shoulders, ala George Bush?” Nonplussed, Merkel responded, “Well, Gordon, under ordinary circumstances I’d give you a swift wallop in the testicles, but inasmuch as you no longer possess a pair of those, I suppose the only appropriate response would be to turn around, look you square in the eye, and say, ‘Please, Mildred, not now.'”
—Traveling as part of a State Department delegation to the Caucases region in June of 2009, John McCain had local diplomats scratching their heads in disbelief when, after meeting the President of Azerbaijan, the Arizona Senator smiled mischievously at the foreign head of state and quipped, “You can call me Azerbaijohnny!”
—While Vladimir Putin thought the original British version of “Death at a Funeral” was hysterical (“I pee my pants that movie,” he told a Scottish diplomat after the 2007 premiere), he thought Hollywood’s remake, only three years later, was ridiculous. Confronting the US Ambassador during a diplomatic reception at the Kremlin, Putin was blunt: “Not same funny to make same movie! What is point? First movie not even old yet!” Embarrassed, the American Ambassador apologized to Putin, assured him that both the President and the Secretary of State agreed that the remake was “ill-advised,” and offered Putin, as “a gesture of friendship and recompense,” an autographed copy of Will Ferrell’s new book, How to Make the Same Movie Over and Over Again.
Our review of the WikiLeaks trove continues, so check back often, as additional revelations are sure to follow.
Then again, maybe not.