In Chile, they call his acts of buffoonery “Piñeri-cosas" – and, boy, as Pineri-cosas go, this one was a doozy.
In an apparent first for a world leader visiting the White House, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Tuesday briefly co-opted the President of the United States’ – in this case obviously Barack Obama – Oval Office desk.
"I’m going to sit at the President of the United States’ desk," Pinera states in Spanish before undertaking the bit of foolery that reportedly broke all manner of long-held White House protocols for visiting leaders, according to a YouTube video of the unfortunate event.
Pinera then decisively rounds the hallowed workspace at which Lincoln, Roosevelt – both Teddy and Franklin D. -- JFK and 40 others penned into law untold acts of world-changing legislation, not to mention declarations of war and related political bric-a-brac – and makes himself rather comfortably at home, although without, thankfully, going so far as to put his feet up on the desk.
Perhaps to break the obvious tension, Alfredo Moreno Charme, the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, reportedly asked a seemingly awestruck Obama, "How many other presidents have done the same?"
To his credit, a cordial and by-then-bemused Obama, who quickly recovered from his initial and barely perceptible bout of surprise, responded in Spanish, “Este es el unico,” or, “This is the only one.”
Boisterous laughter ensued among the more than dozen or so dignitaries arranged around the history-laden room, at which point Pinera awkwardly justified the gaffe by explaining, "You know my daughter was born here.”
And, indeed, Pinera, a billionaire businessman who ascended in 2010 to his country’s highest office, has rather rich American ties.
He reportedly spent some early childhood in New York City, and attended Harvard University before attaining a degree from the prestigious school. However, his political career has reportedly been beset by the sort of obvious failures he rarely – if ever – experienced in the business world.
The reported ample archive of his sundry missteps has reportedly given way to his countrymen’s characterization of similar clownishness as the one apparent on Tuesday in the Oval Office as “Pineri-cosas.”