Surin’s Challenge

This month, Surin Abdul Halim bin Ismail Pitsuwan of Thailand turns over the office of Asean secretary-general to Le Luong Minh of Vietnam. And already you can hear a loud chorus in media and diplomatic circles proclaiming that Surin is a tough act to follow. Pity the guy who succeeds him.

Well, I don’t. Le Luong Minh, you will soon find out, is no palooka. Like Surin, he is a veteran diplomat with a truckload of accomplishments. He may not have Surin’s star power but, hey, not even Michael Jordan won basketball games all by himself. What’s important is the quality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations team that is formed during Minh’s tenure. And that team will only be as good as the 10 member nations will make it.

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Not an Empty Chair

On the night of Aug. 30 earlier this year, Clint Eastwood, Hollywood’s macho icon and conservative activist, stood in the limelight of the packed US Republican National Convention. He had placed an empty chair to his left and imagined an utterly failed President Barack Obama sat on it. Then he gave the furniture a merciless but incoherent tongue-lashing.

The witless act went viral. Overnight he became the laughingstock of the American electorate and helped President Obama win a second term. A new word was born: “eastwooding.”

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