Corridors of Power: Sloppy Staff Work, Afghanistan Jaw Jaw and More

Corridors of Power: Sloppy Staff Work, Afghanistan Jaw Jaw and More

SLOPPY STAFF WORK -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton burst into raucous laughter when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out a translation error on the "Reset Button" she gave him as a joke gift. The joke was on her, however, and in private she was less good-natured about the sloppy staff work responsible for the error. For one thing, it started her off at something of a disadvantage, however slight, with her Russian counterpart. For another, it pointed up an unfavorable comparison with her predecessor: Russian-speaker Condi Rice would very probably have caught the error in time.

Such snafus were supposed to have been a Bush administration trademark -- the National Security Council last year giving Bush a briefing book on Italy that listed a government that had been out of office for six months (and Bush noticed!!); Bush calling Jose Maria Aznar, Spain's former prime minister, "Maria." In Brussels last week, Clinton did some name mangling of her own, reports a European diplomat who was present. She called the EU's top foreign policy official Javier Solano (it's Solana), and referred to another senior EU figure, Benita Ferrero Waldner, as Benito.

Does it matter in the end? To err is human, after all. But if staffers mistake the Russian translation for "Reset," some analysts wonder, what errors could they make on a new test ban treaty?

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