Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ronald Reagan vs. King Hussein

Ronald Reagan was the US president between 1981 to 1989. After the end of his term, in 1994, he announced that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. However there were some signs suggestive that he had some "concentration issues" , to say the least, while he was still in office. One of these incidents occurred during a meeting with King Hussein.

Richard Viets, the US ambassador to Jordan in 1981, gave an interview reporting a very interesting meeting between the two leaders. Avi Shleim reports:

"On that first visit the Reagans invited the king and Queen Noor to lunch in their private quarters. Viets was also invited. In the middle of this small affair, Reagan suddenly said, "I understand that the Dead Sea is so salty that no fish can survive in it." The comment was not germane to anything that went on before.

Hussein said, "That's correct. No fish can survive there."

Reagan said, "I think we can help you out. We have special fish in California that I think they would love to live in the Dead Sea."

Hussein's eyes went almost into the dome of his head; he could barely believe that this conversation was taking place.

After lunch, Reagan took Viets aside and said he was going to have members of his staff contacted him to arrange the shipment of the fish. The two of them, Reagan said, were going to sort out this problem for Jordan. Viets was embarrassed but the king was characteristically good-humoured. When they met on future occasions, he would often rib Viets by saying, "When are you going to bring the fish?!"


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