Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 08:06 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 08:06 | SYDNEY

Friday funny: Robert Gates, comedian


Sam Roggeveen


5 December 2008 15:14

This morning I linked to a collection of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' best one-liners. But not included were these Gates anecdotes (from this speech), kindly sent through by a regular reader. Have a good weekend:

...the conduct of diplomacy, where – as Secretary Rice can attest –  protocol and propriety are so very important, provides an especially fertile ground for amusement.

For example, there was the time that President Nixon met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, shortly after Nixon had appointed Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State. With Golda Meir in that meeting was her very erudite foreign minister, Abba Eban, a graduate of Cambridge. At one point in the meeting, Nixon turned to Golda Meir and said, 'Just think, we now both have Jewish foreign ministers.' And without missing a beat Golda Meir said, 'Yes, but mine speaks English.'

Then there was the time that President Nixon visited Italy and had a meeting with the Pope. Kissinger and Nixon had along with them Secretary of Defense Mel Laird, but they decided that Laird as, in effect, secretary of war shouldn’t be invited to meeting with the Pope. So, Nixon the next morning went in for his private audience with the Pope, and the other Americans waited outside for the general audience.  And who should come striding down the hall of the papal apartments but Mel Laird smoking an enormous cigar, he had decided he wanted in on the meeting. Kissinger was beside himself, but finally said, 'Well, Mel, at least extinguish the cigar.' And so Laird stubbed out his cigar and put it in his pocket.

The rest of the American party a few minutes later went in to their meeting with the Pope, everyone took a seat. A couple of minutes into the Pope’s remarks, Kissinger heard this little patting sound going on, he was in the second row with Laird on the end, there was a wisp of smoke coming out of Laird’s pocket. Everything seemed under control. A couple of minutes later, Kissinger heard this loud slapping noise. He looked over smoke was billowing out of Laird’s pocket. The Secretary of Defense was on fire. Now the rest of the delegation heard this slapping noise, and they thought they were being cued to applaud the Pope.  And so they did. And Henry later told us, 'God only knows what his Holiness thought, seeing the American secretary of defense immolating himself, and the entire American party applauding the fact.'