Bob Schieffer On Foreign Policy Faux Pas

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, looks on as she presents Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a device with a red knob during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. Clinton said Friday she hopes her first discussion with her Russian counterpart will begin a new era in U.S.-Russian relations without raising doubts about American support for European allies. (AP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini, Pool)
AP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini, Pool
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
There are more important things to worry about, but may we have just a moment of sympathy for the poor State Department employee who came up with the idea of the gag gift that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov?

It was to be a play on Vice President Joe Biden's remark that it was "time to press the reset button on Russian-American relations."

So, Mrs. Clinton presented the foreign minister with a little box with a button on it and a sign that said "Reset" in Russian … or at least that's what the Americans thought it said.

"I hope we got the right word," Mrs. Clinton beamed.

"No, you got it wrong," the minister replied. "You got the word that means 'overcharged.'"


Oh well, no real harm done. But I can't help wondering what happened to that hapless soul who caused the boss to lay an egg. If he or she was in Mrs. Clinton's traveling party, it must have been a long plane ride home.

If it is any consolation, I have seen a lot worse. I was standing on an airport runway in Warsaw when then-President Jimmy Carter told a Polish crowd he was looking forward to getting to know them.

Surprisingly, the crowd let out a horrified "...uuuhhh" - and no wonder, when we found out why.

Somehow, the President's own translator mangled his words, and in Polish the message came out that Mr. Carter was eager to know the crowd in a Biblical sense!

These things happen.