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from The Great Debate:

For U.S.-Iran, it’s all in the timing

Four years after President Barack Obama famously extended his hand of friendship to Iran, Tehran finally seems willing to unclench its fist. The most decisive geopolitical handshake of this decade may take place today at the United Nations.

Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani and Obama may have this encounter at the luncheon of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday or in the U.N building’s corridors.

This new opening has taken the world by surprise. Washington's dual track policy over the past three years -- a combination of a little bit of diplomacy and a whole lot of strangulating sanctions -- has produced a hardening of the Iranian position. Tehran's nuclear activities have continued unabated, while its regional policies, particularly its support for the Assad regime in Syria, have intensified.

Both sides seemed to be preparing for a long fight, where perseverance would determine the outcome.

from The Great Debate:

NSA as ‘Big Brother’? Not even close

Reader holding a copy of George Orwell's 1984, June 9, 2013.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

When the Guardian and the Washington Post revealed details about the National Security Agency collecting phone data from telecommunications companies and U.S. government programs pulling in emails and photographs from internet businesses, suddenly “George Orwell” was leading the news.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Is that Pig Latin, Mr. President?

Blog Guy, I was surprised to see you missed "Talk Like a Pirate Day" this week. It was fun!

Oh please. All that "ahoy" and "matey" stuff? Sorry, I waited for today instead, when we talk like presidential pirates.

from George Chen:

Winning Hu’s heart

From working lunch to “private dinner”, Texas ranch to the White House, and George Bush to Barack Obama, you can clearly see the differences in the approaches of the two U.S. presidents to welcoming Chinese President Hu Jintao. The aim is almost the same, to win the heart and mind of Hu before the United States tries to convince him and his country to increase cooperation with the U.S. on a range of tough issues – for example, North Korea. Influential Chinese newspaper The 21st Century Business Herald reported that First Lady Michelle Obama would “supervise White House chefs” over the food to be served during the state visit. Earlier, Obama said he would treat Hu to a “private dinner”, a very rare arrangement for visiting heads of state to the U.S., affording the two gentlemen private space for a more frank conversation at the White House. The Chinese-language report highlighting Michelle Obama’s supervisory role at the private dinner was an attention-grabber and one of the most-read articles on many leading Chinese news portals so far this week. Many Chinese netizens praised Mrs. Obama’s kind offer to treat China’s “top boss”. It would seem that before Obama has even had a chance to win the heart and mind of Hu, his wife has already scored brownie points among the Chinese public. Things were very different just five years ago.  In 2006, when George Bush was president and invited Hu to visit, he initially suggested that Hu visit his private ranch in Texas. When the news went public, the reaction in China must have surprised Bush. Many traditional, middle-aged Chinese people didn’t really like the idea of Hu being received at Bush’s personal ranch instead of the White House. Some Chinese scholars also publicly criticized the idea, which they believed failed to reflect the seriousness and importance of Sino-U.S. ties. In the end, Hu didn’t go to the ranch, but had to settle for lunch at the White House. No dinner? Chinese people generally prefer dinner to lunch. Lunch is a more specific, purpose-focused meal, for example the business lunches that bankers in Hong Kong so often attend. Lunch is about the talk more than food. It’s not really about winning the heart and mind of the guest, but a more pragmatic approach to make him help you solve certain problems. The Chinese way of dealing with friendships is that you’d better bring your Chinese friend to a formal dinner – the more formal, the better it demonstrates how serious you are about the relationship.  This time, Obama scored the point. A private dinner at the White House, the counterpart of Zhongnanhai, where Chinese leaders live in Beijing, sounds like a sufficiently friendly and serious approach to please Hu and improve the Sino-U.S. ties. For various reasons, Hu’s last visit to the United States was not considered a successful trip by many political analysts and scholars. Remember the story about the Chinese national anthem played at the White House on Bush’s official reception for Hu? Thank God. The anthem was correct – the one for the People’s Republic of China. But it was announced by the U.S. solider responsible for hospitality at the ceremony as the anthem of the Republic of China, in other words Taiwan! Imagine how Hu may must have felt when he heard the words: “Now, the national anthem for the Republic of China”. Many things have taken place in the five years since, and the rise of China is something no one can ignore, although whether the rise is peaceful or an emerging threat to the region or even the world is a subject of debate for many. It seems Obama understands China better than his predecessor, or he has to understand China better given its bigger impact on world affairs. The more prudent rather than self-important, and a more personal rather than state-arrogant approach by Obama towards Hu and China may reflect new attitude toward Sino-U.S. relations for both sides. However, that doesn’t mean the international community should hold up their hopes too high for the outcome of the meeting. A private dinner may help win Hu’s heart, but you can’t expect him to immediately get tough on North Korea after he returns home. The same goes for Sino-U.S. trade, yuan appreciation and so on. Chinese leaders prefer to “proceed step by step” or  循序渐进 as they say in Chinese. So, how should we measure the success of Hu’s trip to the United States? My personal view is that the top priority for Obama and the U.S. government is to win Hu’s heart and mine first. Once you make him happy, improve mutual trust and create some sort of chemistry, then you just need a spark to start addressing the other issues.

HuBy George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

From working lunch to “private dinner”, Texas ranch to the White House, and George Bush to Barack Obama, you can clearly see the differences in the approaches of the two U.S. presidents to welcoming Chinese President Hu Jintao.

from Tales from the Trail:

Bush memoir coming with huge first printing

We're one month and a day away from the launch of George W. Bush's presidential memoir "Decision Points."

The former president's book, which goes on sale on Nov. 9, will  have a huge first printing of 1.5 million copies, Crown Publishers said in a statement on Thursday.bush_cover

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama to call Bush ahead of Iraq speech

Just a friendly chat between two commanders in chief over a 7-1/2 year Iraq war...

President Barack Obama plans to call former President George W. Bush and discuss Iraq where he is ending combat operations that his  predecessor began. OBAMA/

from Tales from the Trail:

Laura Bush says every president faces unfair criticism

Former first lady Laura Bush says every president is unfairly criticized and it comes from both friends and foes.

She spoke to ABC's "Good Morning America" from the Gulf Coast, where she is on a visit for the fifth anniversary of  Hurricane Katrina. USA/LAURABUSHHer husband, former President George W. Bush and his administration were sharply criticized for slow federal response to the disaster.

from Tales from the Trail:

Clinton: do you really need all those SUVs?

Emma Ashburn covered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in which she  defended international health spending at a time of domestic belt-tightening.

"At a time when American unemployment is recorded as slightly less than 10 percent, and we know structural unemployment is worse, and we're asking hard-working, maybe unemployed Americans, to keep paying their taxes, some of that money will go to fund our development and diplomacy efforts worldwide."

from Tales from the Trail:

Peter Peterson says Republicans and business need to step up

Peter Peterson knows a little something about Republicans, Wall Street, and American business. He's a former Commerce Secretary under Republican President Richard Nixon, a former New York Federal Reserve chairman and a former chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers.

And what he sees right now is that Republicans and business are not stepping up to the plate.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

“Department of Violence and Evil, thank you for calling…”

IRAQ-USA/BIDEN

Okay, this one just struck me as very funny. The actual photo caption tells us that residents in Najaf, Iraq, are protesting a visit by Vice President Joe Biden two days ago, but I can't help noticing their banner rails against George Bush.

IRAQ-USA/BIDENI asked the folks at our Baghdad bureau, and they suggested that maybe the protesters were too lazy to print a new sign, too poor to print a new sign, or just hadn't been told about recent changes in the U.S.

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