Sec State Hillary uses official dinners as a chance to demonstrate Michael Pollan diplomacy–focused the best of American cuisine and culture, according to a story this week in NYT.
And in case someone forgets which fork to use, a high level meeting started in D.C. today for protocol officers hosted by US Department of State:
Protocol officials generalized about their hopes for the conference. Sammie Eddico, Ghana’s protocol chief, said he hoped to network: “Since we are meeting with colleagues, we will share our ears, and talk about ceremonies, traditions and etiquette.” Kosovo’s senior officer of state protocol, Burim Susuri, said he “wanted to celebrate the independence of the U.S., and learn some protocol issues,” while the Guyanese representative, Esther Griffith, said she is particularly interested in learning about seating arrangements and gift-giving. Diana Locke, from Belize, said she wanted to know how protocol is sorted out in a large country. “In Belize, we are only three persons in our unit, so looking at some of the techniques that they use here will be interesting,” she said. “Our protocol is slightly different because we follow more of the traditions of the British culture.”
The possibility of irrevocably wrecking diplomatic relations between nations didn’t seem to be on anyone’s mind Wednesday evening, when the protocol officers attended the State Department’s annual Fourth of July celebration, this year attached to the conference as the summit’s opening session.
But in a repurposed version of the story on Slate, we learn that gaffes do have an occasional utility:
Breaches of protocol can have more of an impact when they play into a larger narrative. When Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted King Saud of Saudi Arabia on an American warship in 1945, the chain-smoking president refrained from lighting up in front of the anti-smoking king. (Roosevelt did, however, push an elevator emergency stop button to give himself enough time to smoke two cigarettes between meetings.) The pair got along so well that Saud declared them twin brothers. Winston Churchill took a different approach. When told that Saud opposed vices such as strong drink on religious grounds, Churchill replied, “My religion prescribed as an absolute sacred rite smoking cigars and drinking alcohol before, after, and if need be during all meals and the intervals between them.” Churchill’s smoking and drinking probably didn’t significantly damage Anglo-Saudi relations—Saudi Arabia was already looking to FDR to counterbalance British influence in the region—but his imperiousness reinforced Saud’s low opinion of the fading colonial power.