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September 26, 2007

Bonny Jain—The White House’s Geo-Political Savior
Posted by Moira Whelan

Breaking news out of the White House yesterday: the press office gives President Bush phonetic pronunciations for those tough-to-pronounce countries like Kyrgyzstan. The proof came when a copy of Bush’s UN speech (complete with pronunciation key) found its way onto the UN website. Exercising its influence over the United Nations, the White House quickly had it removed. Dana Perino dismissed questions yesterday in the Press Room about the incident as “offensive.” (NOTE HERE: Bush STILL mispronounced Kyrgyzstan in the speech.)

This is just the latest in the White House geo-grammatical challenges. As a candidate, Bush called Greeks "Grecians," Kosovars "Kosovoians" and mistook Slovakia for Slovenia. He couldn’t recall the names of heads of state of the nations of Pakistan, India or Chechnya …on the fourth—Taiwan—he answered “Lee” for which I suppose he can have 50% credit. 

Ok fine. He’d never been the president of a country before. And as Karen Hughes said at the time “For the American people, the relevant question is not how many names a candidate has memorized but does he have the strategic vision to lead and can he protect American interests?"

So what about now? Very recently, he confused “Austria” with “Australia” and “OPEC” with “APEC.” Perhaps excusable, but you would have figured with a 24 hour airplane ride to prepare, you could have at least gotten the name of the host country and event you were attending correct. Then we can also add the small matter of Iraq to this and other notable foreign policy gaffes (by all means, please contribute dear readers!)

No doubt the White House is feeling the burn, and should consider reaching out to a top expert in this area. 

060524geographicbee_big Bonny Jain.

You all may recall Bonny was the winner of the US National Geography Bee, and did pretty well at the National Spelling Bee as well. At 12 years old, this Illinois middle-schooler certainly comes with a resume that could save the White House, and the United States, from continued global embarrassment. He’s cool under pressure: "At the Geography Bee, Alex Trebek asked Jain to name the Saharan tribe that signed a 1995 peace agreement with the government of Niger. "I was debated between the Tuareg and Fulani," Jain said later. After a moment's hesitation, he guessed Tuareg."

Brilliant. He went on to victory and went home to study for the Spelling Bee.

If Bonny had won the Spelling Bee, he’d have been scheduled to meet with Bush and that probably would have sealed the relationship and prevented these foreign policy disasters. After all of this, I hope the White House will consider bringing back those "Ambassador-At-Large" positions quickly and put an end to this "offensive" behavior. If so, Bonny would be my top candidate for a recess appointment.  (Ha! Recess!)


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A good encouraging appreciation for the talented boy who can give benefit of his knowledge to the world society at large.

A good encouraging appreciation for the talented boy who can give benefit of his knowledge to the world society at large.

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