Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Think Tank Etiquette

Tips for Think-Tank Pundits

Ten ways to drive your panel wild.

By Asia Policy Point

In times dominated by momentous questions of war and foreign policy, a particular kind of Washingtonian is bound to thrive: the think-tank pundit. But competition is relentless. Good judgment and extensive research may help advance a career, but what really matters in Washington is an elusive quality known as “Say-sO Superiority,” or SOS. Staffers at Asia Policy Point, a Washington foreign policy research center, devised the following highly scientific measure to calculate a speaker’s SOS score (and to keep themselves awake during luncheon talks).


Mention of previous government employment or appointment:
“As we used to say in the Oval Office ... ” 10
“While it wasn’t the hardest peace negotiation I’ve ever led ...” 9
“After boarding the Secretary’s plane to Serbia ...” 7
“One reason my lanyard policy decisively improved embassy morale ... ” 0

Mention of recent trip to a war zone or country not recognized by the U.S.:
Sadr City 10
Fallujah 8
Tora Bora 7
The Green Zone Burger King 3
Darfur 1

Mention of recreational activity with senior U.S. official:
“When I was jogging recently with ...”
Condi 9
John Negroponte 8
Bob Gates 8
W. 4
The Vice President 0

Mention of recreational activity with foreign official or leader:
“When I was skiing recently with ...”
Prince Bandar 9
Tony Blair 7
Angela Merkel 6
Hugo Chávez 2
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 0

Mention of relationship with former U.S. president or cabinet official:
“When I was playing bridge recently with ...”
Bill Clinton 10
Colin Powell 9
Brent Scowcroft 8
Henry Kissinger 6
Jimmy Carter 0.5
John Bolton 0

Ability to offer advice to announced or potential presidential candidate:
“When I was sharing my thoughts on switchgrass recently with ...”
Barack 9
Hillary 9
Newt 6
Senator McCain 3
Tom Vilsack 1

Mention of exclusive, invitation-only forum (add extra point if a featured participant):
Camp David 8
Davos 7
Aspen 5
Friendster 0

Mention of conversation with “ordinary” citizen of country within area of expertise:
Sunni insurgent 10
Contented Indian call-center employee 5
Idealistic Iranian student 3
Garrulous Nigerian taxi driver 1
Room service 0

Excuse for being five minutes late for speaking engagement:
Meeting with Ayatollah Sistani ran late 10
Meeting with Dick Cheney ran late 6
Meeting with Norm Mineta ran late 1
Felt barfy 0

Jotting down speaking notes while being introduced 10
Complimenting co-panelist 8
Proposing “a new Marshall plan” 6
Wearing a brown suit 2
Screaming “Allahu akbar” 0


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