Lord high muckety-mucks at the United Nations aren't given to blunt language. These gentle practitioners of persuasion generally float to the bureaucratic top by virtue of their congenital capacity for listening to even the world's worst barbarians with a pleasant and lenient smile.
There's little evidence that they ever progress much farther than this internal civility -- just look around you, for heaven's sake -- but, nevertheless, civility, understatement, prudent euphemisms and mealy-mouthed tactfulness are the tools of diplomatic success, as defined by this international body of inertia.
So you know when one of them says something akin to what you might blurt out after a few beers at your obnoxious brother-in-law's pool party, he's been pushed beyond all human tolerance. He's taken all he can take; he's been diplomatically mum long enough, but by God enough is enough, and he explodes.
That clearly was the case yesterday when Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency's director general, blurted in disgust on BBC Radio about the "new crazies" who want to "go and bomb Iran."
The new crazies are, of course, the selfsame old crazies who have already demonstrated the less than salubrious effects of armed intervention into the hottest of the world's hot spots. They now propose more of the same deadly medicine because they are, well, crazy.
Dr. ElBaradei knows they're crazy, Iran knows they're crazy, Europe knows they're crazy, even the Bush administration at large knows they're crazy. But what made this diplomatic "incident" of frankness so interesting was that even though Dr. ElBaradei accurately and bluntly diagnosed the mental condition, it was 43's own secretary of state who explicitly revealed the patient's identity.
"The president of the United States has made it clear that we are on a course that is a diplomatic course," said Dr. Condi Rice in the wake of Dr. ElBaradei's diagnosis. "That policy is supported by all of the members of the cabinet, and by the vice president of the United States."
It was like defending one's crazy uncle. "We're all quite sane in this family, even Uncle Bert" -- which of course confirms that Uncle Bert has indeed descended into madness and is now and forever known, especially to his own family, as a bughouse imbecile.
Naturally, it was known far and wide well before yesterday that Uncle Dick, too, is crazy, and even foreign diplomats are approaching Dr. Rice's overt anxiety and personal outting. "We fully believe that Foggy Bottom is committed to the diplomatic track," said a European pooh-bah earlier this week, "but there’s some concern about the vice president’s office."
Webster's: "concern: n: an uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension; also the condition of scared shitlessness, used esp in diplomatic patois."