Iranians went to the polls and overwhelmingly elected the former hard line mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The election has caused a great deal of concern among western nations, particularly the United States where President George W. Bush is not expected to be able to pronounce Mr. Ahmadinejad’s name correctly anytime before the end of his term in 2008. In this instance however, the endearingly garbled Mr. Bush, who has a hard saying his wife’s Laura’s name, is not alone.
August publications such as The New York Times and Washington Post are advising their columnists to get the spelling of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s name right once, then just keep cutting and pasting it as they go along. While this is an acceptable solution for the various print media, broadcast news organizations such as CNN an MSNBC face a much more difficult challenge; the hope among these organizations is that Iran will retreat once again into political and social isolation with nothing important to report on till Mr. Ahmadinejad’s term ends.
The White House is already preparing to ignore Iran till Mr. Ahmadinejad leaves office.
Press Secretary Scott McClellan read a statement yesterday that said in part, “The President believes that the best way to deal with any problems Iran may cause is to ignore them. We in the White House are becoming more and more convinced that Iran’s fledgling nuclear program will be no threat to the stability of the Middle East and that Tehran is no longer supporting the out of control insurgency in Iraq, therefore, there really is no reason to mention Mr. Ahma… Ahmad…uh, the leader of that country’s name ever again.”
The problem with Mr. Ahmadinejad’s name is not limited to the United States. Western leaders are secretly breathing a sigh of relief that the new Iranian president appears to be isolationist in his views. The hope is that Mr. Ahmadinejad will decline all invitations for State Visits; while saying his name in broadcasts that can be re-recorded or dubbed is one thing, addressing him directly is another matter. The image of British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing Mr. Ahmadinejad as ” Hey, mate!” or French President Jacques Chirac yelling out, “You! The monsieur with the beard!” is one that’s too much to bear.
Unnamed White House Source Wegman (Pudgy) Waterhouse, speaking on the condition of anonymity said, ” This can turn out to be a bigger problem than Social Security Reform or Ted Kennedy for us in the White House. Pissing off a guy with atomic bombs by constantly mangling his name is never a good idea. Our only saving grace seems to be that no one else can say the guys name either, so one will ever be really sure if we’re mispronouncing it. One thing is certain…you can expect George Bush to be talking about (North Korean President) Kim Jong Il a lot more; at least he can pronounce the name Kim most of the time.