Thursday, December 07, 2006

long one, sorry

An article in the Weekly Standard states:

In his press conference with the Iraqi prime minister this past Thursday, Bush took a direct slap at the Iraq Study Group. "I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq," he told reporters. But "this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all."

There’s two things here right away. First, I’ve never been a fan of study groups. At least the kind I didn’t assemble myself and that usually ended up playing foosball or squash or something.
Second, until now I hadn’t gotten hung up on the term “graceful exit.” But now I am. Seems to me that etiquette writers might have something to say. So here are some highlights from an article in Redbook (very highbrow, I know).

It gives exit strategies for
A Dinner Party:
Thank her and say you had a great time, but you need to go.
A Phone Call:
"Clearly, this is really important to you. But right now I can't focus the way I'd like to for you. Can we schedule another time to talk?"
A Business Meeting:
At the very least, say you need to leave at 4 p.m., or whenever, as you enter the conference room. If you forget to give advance notice, or the meeting has run crazy long, just exit quietly and leave a brief explanatory, apologetic note with the boss's assistant.

Then I realized that a “graceful exit” usually implies some sort of graceful entrance or at least an invitation to be there in the first place (which, in case anyone forgot, wasn't really forthcoming in Iraq), so the following one seems closest -

A Restaurant:
As you scan the menu, you realize that a meal here would set you back a day's pay, and it's just not worth it. Don't panic; you've got a right to leave--you didn't sign a contract with the tournedos de boeuf when you sat down at the table. True, the waiter was solicitous, and he already brought the ice water with lemon that you had requested. But no matter how embarrassed you might feel, don't sneak out--it's just rude. "You need to excuse yourself and leave with dignity," says Leonard. Simply say, "I'm sorry, but we have to go," and thank him. Fibbing usually results in more embarrassment-- especially if the waiter offers to put in your appetizer order while you step out to "find the nearest cash machine." If he was particularly accommodating--or if you already nibbled on the bread and butter--leave a $2 or $3 tip. And don't forget to use the most helpful tool of all in exiting any awkward situation: a gracious smile.

If only.

The closest thing in my experience are these parties we “created” in high school by starting a rumor that would turn into reality. There was a generous family which was peopled by many kids and their rotating crop of guests (Hi, M.C.!) - too many to keep track of, I think - and somehow it always seemed plausible that there might be a party there. And if enough people actually showed up to inquire, well, there was the party.
Anyway, even there we cleaned up after ourselves and were friendly and more or less respectful (our age taken into consideration, of course). But then again, we wanted to be “invited” back.
Not so with George W. But in his experience, I gather, his exit from social occasions was a drunken one. So maybe that’s what should happen in Iraq. We pass out and someone else drives us home.
But who?

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