Smartest president in history misidentifies the Falkland Islands, twice over

The Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Columbia turned out to be a real blast.  The Secret Service had their prostitution scandal, which is now said to include at least 20 representatives of the Cartagena hospitality industry. 

A number of military personnel – including 5 Army Special forces soldiers, two Marines, two Navy personnel, and one member of the Air Force, according to the L.A. Times – also appear to have been involved.  They were originally said to be in hot water for violating curfew, but now it seems they “somehow got caught up” in the Victoria’s Secret Service scandal.

These lurid developments didn’t keep President Barack Obama from making a few headlines, although he might wish they had.  The actual summit was pretty much a bust, and primarily consisted of South American leftist dictatorships whining about Cuba.  CBS News reports that “Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua were unequivocal: They won’t come to the next summit, set for Panama in 2015, if Cuba can’t come, too.”  Ecuador boycotted this year’s summit for the same reason.

And Bolivian president Evo Morales accused the United States of acting “like a dictatorship.”  Just ask the Supreme Court about that, Mr. Morales.

Obama swiftly corrected Morales by acting like a pampered aristocrat instead of a dictator, making an astonishingly tin-eared joke that “when I take these summit trips, part of my job is to scout out where I may want to bring Michelle back later for vacation.” 

But the President also made a serious attempt to reach out to Latin America, specifically to Argentina.  Argentina has been eyeing the Falkland Islands again, and wanted the Summit of the Americas to produce a declaration of support for their claim.  They didn’t get it, as the United States and Canada exercised their veto powers, but President Obama decided to show off his impeccable international sensibilities and phenomenal brain power by referring to the islands with the Spanish name Argentina uses for them, the Malvinas.  This was widely interpreted as a slap at the United Kingdom.

Except Obama got it wrong.  As the Washington Times points out, the smartest President in history referred to the Falkland Islands as “the Maldives,” which are on the other side of the planet, off the coast of India.

The actual residents of the Malwhatevers would like to remain British subjects, and Britain would like to keep them on board, but Jim Picht at the Washington Times sees them falling on the wrong side of a grim Obama political calculation:

The British attitude toward Obama might well be described as “neutral.” The Administration has affirmed the nature of the special relationship, and it has declined to support Argentina’s claim on the Falklands, but Obama is much less interested in treating the UK as special than Reagan was.

In the grand scheme of things, calling the Falklands “the Malvinas” is small. It recognizes a cold reality, that the US needs the UK much less than it did during the Cold War, and there are gains to be had from warming up to Latin America. Venezuela’s President Chavez is sick with cancer, new leadership in Brazil has responded to American overtures to heal rifts that grew under former President da Silva (“Lula”), and hemispheric trade surpasses trade with Europe. If calling a few insignificant islands the Maldives (umm, Malvinas) will help cement relationships, why not?

Sorry, Britain.  “Special relationships” are special until they’re not.