Power Naps

The President Of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has come under fire recently for his behavior during the Association for South East Asian Nations summit.  Duterte is a controversial figure for a lot of reasons, but the latest kerfuffle arises from his decision to skip some of the ASEAN meetings and take a “power nap” instead.

When he was questioned about it, the 73-year-old Duterte responded:  “What’s wrong with my nap?”

That’s an entirely valid question in my book. ASEAN meetings probably aren’t the most thrilling events, and not every meeting with a group of world leaders is a life and death occasion.  Is it really so bad if a world leader plops on a couch and dozes off now and then? I don’t know if President Trump enjoys a refreshing afternoon siesta, but if he doesn’t I think it couldn’t hurt if he adopted that practice.  He’d probably feel better about catching up on some shut-eye, and we might even avoid a few of those ill-advised tweets as a result.

Many of us of a certain age brought towels to our full-day kindergarten and, when the teacher told us to roll them out on the floor after lunch, we stretched out and took a short nap on command.  I don’t know about you, but I really liked kindergarten, and I think the afternoon nap probably had something to do with it.  Unfortunately, we don’t continue with the nap as part of the school routine post-kindergarten, and we certainly don’t build it into the average American workday — as opposed to Latin countries, where the siesta is a key part of the culture, is perfectly timed to coincide with the lull in human biorhythms, and allows for recharge and replenishment.

So President Duterte missed a few meetings?  So what?  ASEAN will soldier along somehow, despite his brief absence, and as long as he didn’t oversleep to the point of grogginess I bet he felt a lot better — and was a lot easier to deal with — after he woke up, stretched, appreciated his chance to rest, and moved forward with his day.

I repeat:  What’s wrong with a nap?

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When Churchill And Stalin Hit The Bottle

The BBC has an interesting story about a World War II summit meeting that tells us a bit about how the world has changed, and also, perhaps, about how it hasn’t.

The story took place in 1942, when Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, traveled to Moscow for a summit meeting with Joseph Stalin, the dictator who led the Soviet Union.  The two countries were new allies, brought together by their common foe, Nazi Germany.

The initial meetings between the leaders didn’t exactly go smoothly.  Churchill requested another meeting, which began at 7 p.m.  At 1 a.m. an under-secretary of the British Foreign Office was invited to join the proceedings and found Stalin, Churchill, and Russian Foreign Secretary Molotov sitting around the shredded remains of a suckling pig on a table covered with countless bottles of liquor.  By that time Churchill was just drinking wine and complaining of a headache, and Stalin made the bureaucrat drink a concoction that was “pretty savage.”  The meeting continued until 3 a.m., when the Brits stumbled back to their rooms, packed, and headed to the airport.

The drinking party was unconventional — although not unusual for the Soviets, whose reputation for long, vodka-saturated banquets continued for decades — but it did the trick.  Churchill and Stalin established a personal connection that helped the allies steer their way to victory over the Axis powers.

It’s hard to imagine our modern political leaders having drinking bouts and making bleary-eyed policy decisions at 2 a.m. after guzzling countless shots of booze.  We obviously wouldn’t want them to do so.  But the importance of making a personal connection remains as true today as it was 70 years ago during the dark days of a global war.  Summit meetings still make sense because we want our leaders to be able to take the measure of each other and establish relationships that can stand the stress when times get tough.

No Mo

The unrest in the Middle East has spread to Libya, where Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year reign may be ending — or not.  People apparently are protesting, and the government may have hired mercenaries and sent planes to mow down the demonstrators.  It’s hard to say, because there are no reporters in Libya, and a lot of the “reporting” seems to be sifting through “tweets” and “re-tweets” and dealing with unconfirmed rumor.

We can fairly conclude that something is happening, because Gaddafi’s kid gave a bizarre, finger-wagging, fight-to-the-last-bullet speech.  You wouldn’t expect that kind of diatribe unless circumstances were dire — although trying to assess the conduct of the Gaddafis by applying the standards of normal, rational behavior is probably doomed to failure.  From the speech, it sounds like Gaddafi Junior is a chip off the old block in the weirdness department.

At any given time, Muammar Gaddafi would easily rank in the top 5 in a “strangest leaders of the world” contest.  Right now, his chief rivals in that competition probably would be Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez.  Gaddafi is a pretty strong candidate for top honors, however.  He is known for his rambling speeches, his incomprehensible political philosophy, and for wearing sunglasses, colorful outfits, and curious hats.  If he was somebody you knew in college, you would conclude that he is a complete stoner.  Instead, he has been the leader of Libya, and in control of its oil riches, for more than 40 years.

The world would be a better place if the oppressed people of Libya sent Mo packing — and his kid, too.