Chinese leader President Hu Jintao made a historic trip to the United States this week to meet with President Obama and members of Congress. On Wednesday, Obama and Hu held a joint press conference that developed unintentionally into an Abbott and Costello routine. For whatever reason translators were not made available who could provide almost simultaneous translations of both presidents statements as well as answers to reporters questions. One would think that if the United Nations could do it, so could the White House. Instead, President Obama was surprised when after giving an opening statement for what seemed like ten minutes, a Chinese translator gave an equally long harangue to the straight-faced Hu. A couple of minutes into the translator’s talk, Obama cut in and apologized to the newsmen present that he had no idea that this was going to be the protocol.
When Hu spoke, Obama looked askance and tapped his ear, making a motion that he was clueless as to what was being said but to his credit showed patience to wait as did the rest of the audience to finally find out its meaning. And when a reported asked Hu why he seemed to be evading answering a specific question, Hu replied that he didn’t even know it was being asked of him.
I can imagine a reporter in the back of the room turning to another and asking, “Who’s speaking?” and the other fellow replying, “exactly”. Which reminds me of the time I first came face to face with a live Asian when I was a teenager in the mid 1960’s. Until then, the only ones I had noticed were Charley Chan and his number one son in the old movies shown on television as well as Fuji, the cook and erstwhile captive on McHale’s Navy.
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