Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mori to Clinton: Me too.

When I was studying abroad at Waseda University in college during the 2000-2001 academic year, a famous alumni of ours, Yoshiro Mori, was causing us a great deal of embarrassment by generally bungling his way about the prime ministership of Japan—with an abundance of verbal gaffes.

I was interning that year in Japan's legislature, and he wasn't exactly strongly supported there either. So it came as no surprise when the legislative-office rumor mill brought wind of an alleged interaction between Prime Minister Mori and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the G-8 summit that was held in Okinawa in July 2000, several months before my internship began.

Basically it went something like this. Mori, not very good at English, got some coaching from translators to help him at least get a basic greeting down for when he was to meet with Bill Clinton. But, instead of starting with, "How are you?", Mori forgot how it was supposed to go and blurted out...

Mori: Who are you?

Clinton: [surprised, but not missing a beat...] Haha, I'm Hillary's husband...

Mori: [apparently not realizing Clinton hadn't just said "I'm fine. And you?"] Me too.

So... a case of last-minute language learning gone horribly wrong, or a complete fabrication? Snopes calls shenanigans on this one, blaming the Japanese media, which hardly sounds unreasonable, given the climate at the time. On the other hand, here's a Japanese professor, asserting the truth of the story (or perhaps just parroting a media untruth).

I recall seeing a video of Mori going up and shaking hands with Clinton that was running in the Japanese media all those years back (a quick search on YouTube didn't get the video for me) which claimed to be a film of when the above was said, although it was taken from far enough away that nothing could be heard (convenient, right?).

I doubt Mori'd fess up if it's true, so someone give Bill a call and let's get the final word on this.

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