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Tilting at Windmills

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June 3, 2009

SHUKRAN.... Now he's done it.

King Abdullah also noted the ties between the two nations, which he said go back to the 1930's and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the late King Abdul-Aziz.

He endorsed Obama's election win, calling him "a distinguished man who deserves to be in this position."

"Shukran," Obama said, which is "thank you" in Arabic.

The president's use of an Arabic word has apparently sparked some interest because, well, I'm not sure why. When Obama chatted with a French journalist yesterday, he said, "Bonjour," and no one seemed to care. (It's good to know Arabic is still more controversial, as a language, than French.)

But before anyone gets too excited about this, Spencer Ackerman reminds us that Gen. David Petraeus told the press last fall, as he was wrapping up his tenure as U.S. commander in Iraq, "As-Salamu 'Alaykum, masa' al-kheir, good afternoon to all of you, and shukran jaziilan for joining us for today's roundtable."

Spencer added, "Can we really trust military commanders who speak other languages on occasion? ... Come to think of it, have we ever really seen Petraeus's birth certificate?"

I'd just add that none other than George W. Bush told his Iraqi hosts, "Shukran," late last year, shortly before having a shoe thrown at him.

Something to consider before Fox News starts scrutinizing the "significance" of the president' comment.

Steve Benen 1:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

This is going to be great theater. The right wing is on a hair-trigger over everything Obama does and says. Folks on cable will whine and moan and the American people will shrug. The right gets crazier and Obama only cements his standing with the country and the world. I hope he keeps it up.

Posted by: NHCt on June 3, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'd just add that none other than George W. Bush told his Iraqi hosts, "Shukran," late last year, shortly before having a shoe thrown at him.

Are you sure he didn't say, "A shoe, Oh crap!"

Posted by: Danp on June 3, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

'd just add that none other than George W. Bush told his Iraqi hosts, "Shukran," late last year, shortly before having a shoe thrown at him.

Are you sure he didn't say, "A shoe, Oh crap!"
Posted by: Danp on June 3, 2009 at 1:20 PM
| PERMALINK***********************************

Ok, that was funny as shit!

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on June 3, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I'd just add that none other than George W. Bush told his Iraqi hosts, "Shukran," late last year, shortly before having a shoe thrown at him.

I don't know why, but for some reason this strikes me as one of the funniest lines I've read from Steve on this blog.

Posted by: jonas on June 3, 2009 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I'd just add that none other than George W. Bush told his Iraqi hosts, "Shukran," late last year, shortly before having a shoe thrown at him.

Here all this time I thought he said "Fuck You Iraq".

Posted by: ScottW on June 3, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama orders a taco, will someone ask if he's secretly a Mexican illegal immigrant?

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on June 3, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

First a Puerto Rican SCOTUS nominee, then Bonjour, and now Shukran.

This is the beginning of the end of America as we know it.

Posted by: Al on June 3, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

The president's use of an Arabic word has apparently sparked some interest because, well, I'm not sure why.

Because shut up, that's why.

Posted by: Gregory on June 3, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Well, when you're already mad at the man for breathing, actual speaking is just one more affront.

Posted by: Tom Stewart on June 3, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, I believe I violated comment thread etiquette by making a joke after what was clearly the best comment possible has already been posted. Danp wins, we're all just vying for second.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on June 3, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Shockingly, back during the war, the president communciated with our enemies in their own language!!

Oh, wait a minute--that was George Washington . . .
(Or Jorge Uaxactun, as his fellow Aztlan co-conspriators used to call him . . .)

Posted by: rea on June 3, 2009 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

It clearly means Obama is a secret GAY!

Look at all those arab speaking gays we've kicked out of the army. Coincedence or conspiracy???

Posted by: martin on June 3, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

For every country I ever went to visit, I tried to learn three basic words/phrases in their language: "thank you", "I'm sorry/excuse me" and "please". I'm glad to hear that Obama's learning some of those too, since they're very, very helpful.

But I hope he won't be walking off into the sunset, holding hands with the king, as some other American leaders I could mention. A secret Muslim linguist is one thing, but a secret Muslim gay is quite another.

Posted by: exlibra on June 3, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Fox News is a dick.

Posted by: David Bailey on June 3, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody knows Petraeus was born in The Hague. He's the Netherlandish Candidate.

Posted by: penalcolony on June 3, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

exlibra's bladder is bigger than mine. Dove sono i gabinetti? came first.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 3, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

For every country I ever went to visit, I tried to learn three basic words/phrases in their language: "thank you", "I'm sorry/excuse me" and "please".

How do you get by without "Hello (good morning, good afternoon, good evening)," "Goodbye," and, as Davis notes, some version of "Would you be so kind as to direct me to the ladies' room?" These are no less important on my travel language list.

Posted by: shortstop on June 3, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

If you kids can't understand the difference between George W. Bush being polite and a guy with an Iraqi middle name and a history of pro-Muslim anti-Christian sympathies choosing to conduct international diplomacy in Arabic instead of English, I can't help you.

Posted by: Myke K on June 3, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

How do you get by without "Hello ...

You'll notice that in Hollywood, foreigners are never able to learn hello, goodbye, thank you, you're welcome, please, Mr., Mrs. Miss, or yes and no. Other than that, though, they're usually pretty fluent.

Posted by: Danp on June 3, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

How do you say 'betray us' in Arabic?

Posted by: anonymous on June 3, 2009 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

The president's use of an Arabic word has apparently sparked some interest because, well, I'm not sure why.

If Obama does it, it must be wrong. It does not matter who else has done it. Or whether somebody else does it in the future. At the moment Obama does it, it is wrong because it was done by Obama.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on June 3, 2009 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Am I missing something? Is there a problem or a straw man here? This post and comment section seems a bit shupid. Did I miss a link to fox news bashing the Prez? I'm outraged that the right is going to feign outrage?

Posted by: dannyshenanigan on June 3, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Using someone else's native language to say "please" or "thank-you" or most anything else is a concept called Politeness. It's a practice unknown among Republicans today.

Posted by: Darsan54 on June 3, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Someone tell him not to say Shukriya MatherChod when he meets Zardari.

Posted by: gregor on June 3, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Dammit! If English was good enough for Jesus, why isn't it good enough for Obama?

Posted by: Rush L. on June 3, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Ummmm ... that shoulda been "shokran." "Shukran" is Turkish.

Posted by: charlotte on June 3, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I've travelled all over the world, and at the very minimum I make sure to learn how to say "please" and "thank you" in the local language in every country I visit.

It's common courtesy, nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: mfw13 on June 3, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

How do you get by without "Hello (good morning, good afternoon, good evening)," "Goodbye," and, as Davis notes, some version of "Would you be so kind as to direct me to the ladies' room?" These are no less important on my travel language list -- shortstop, @14:20

Well, some sort of equivalent of "hello" I did try to learn, as well as things like "yes" and "no" ('cause, in Bulgaria, you nod for "no" and move your heard side to side for "yes". Tripped up on that one at 13). For "goodbye", I just smiled and waved; probably could have done it for "hello" as well.

The "ladies room"? You'd be surprised at how many people understand the basic, Polish, "toaleta?", accompanied by raised eyebrows, crossed legs and generally helpless mien :)

Most of my travels were in Europe, too, which helped. And, most of the time, I was accompanied by someone who spoke the native language. What I learnt, I learnt for politeness sake; those words are helpful not so much at getting you what you want directly but at getting the natives well-enough disposed towards you to want to put up with the *lack* of knowledge of their language. Once they know you're trying, they'll be much more accommodating (I once communicated with an Italian taxi driver in very broken Latin).

Well... The French... Maybe not so much; with them, just trying isn't enough :)

Posted by: exlibra on June 3, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

And if you, Myke K, don't realize just how stupid you are, then we can't help you. I guess we're even.

Posted by: Sean on June 3, 2009 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

exlibra's bladder is bigger than mine. Dove sono i gabinetti? came first.-- Davis X. Machina, @14:14

Actually, Davis X and shortstop... I found it more useful *not to* be able to ask, correctly, the way to the toilet or anything else. If you manage to fool the natives into thinking you speak their language, you're likely to get a spate of very fast-spoken instructions which, unless you really know that language, you won't understand. And then you're really up the spout, with the legs twisted into a tight knot :)

A more useful thing is to learn to recognise the sound of "do you speak X?" and how to answer it with "not at all" (or "very little", as the case might be)

Posted by: exlibra on June 3, 2009 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Come to think of it, have we ever really seen Petraeus's birth certificate?"

Oh, snap.

Posted by: Joe Friday on June 3, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

(I once communicated with an Italian taxi driver in very broken Latin).

Works a treat. In '78 I bargained the fare from Naples to Cuma, off the meter, armed only with Latin and certain universal, Mediterranean, hand gestures. (Cf. Justice Scalia) There were about 1000 lire to the dollar in those days, so the sums involved were enormous.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 3, 2009 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Davis X,

I wonder if you were that American student I met on the train from Naples to Rome, who told me to try Latin on Italians? 1966 it would have been... At that time (aged 16), I didn't know any more Latin than I knew Italian but I always remembered that piece of advice and, 8yrs later, tried it.

Like you say... It worked a treat. We took a taxi from Rome to Vicenza, late at night (I got hung up at the airport, with wrong paperwork, which took 8 hrs to unscramble. Long and hilarious story; straight from opera buffo) and I directed the driver and chattered with him all the way, while my husband sat, bug-eyed. He took more Latin than I did, but said he wouldn't have had the nerve :)

Posted by: exlibra on June 3, 2009 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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