And "Putin is no vegetable," according to the accompanying article written by Adi Ignatius, who just may have gotten himself on V.V.P.’s hit list. Yes, it seems Putin grew to hate poor Adi over their 3.5 hours together.
But it didn't have to be like that. It started off delightfully enough with "an elaborate dinner of lobster-and-shiitake-mushroom salad, ‘crab fingers with hot sauce’ [Editor's note: I’m pretty sure this means imitation crab sticks and ketchup in Russia] and impressive vintages of Puligny-Montrachet and a Chilean Cabernet."
However, by the end of the evening, the proverbial stoliki seemed to have turned:
"Putin has been irritable throughout, a grudging host. Suddenly, at 10 o'clock, he stands and abruptly ends the evening. 'We’ve finished eating, there’s nothing more on the table, so let’s call it a day,' he declares. Actually, the main course (choice of sturgeon or veal) and dessert ('bird's milk' cake [Editor's note: This cake is not tight.]) -- lovingly printed in gold ink on the prepared menu cards -- haven't yet been served. The Russian President's brusqueness is jarring. Have our questions angered him? Bored him? Does he have another appointment? It's not clear. 'Bye bye,' says Putin -- in English -- as he walks briskly out of the room."
Luckily for the readers of Adi's otherwise mundane, rehashed, not-really-informative-at-all article, Ignatius did not censor his awkward moments with Vova. And to the delight of this reader who values uncomfortable moments, Adi lights a Molotov cocktail in the lead paragraph:
"No one is born with a stare like Vladimir Putin's. The Russian President's pale
blue eyes are so cool, so devoid of emotion that the stare must have begun as an
affect, the gesture of someone who understood that power might be achieved by
the suppression of ordinary needs, like blinking. The affect is now seamless,
which makes talking to the Russian President not just exhausting but often
chilling. It's a gaze that says, I'm in charge."
And if I didn’t know better, I might start thinking Adi is looking to have sexy time with Putin (I know -- who isn’t?!), but Putin ain't having it: "Putin himself is sardonic but humorless. In our hours together, he didn't attempt a joke, and he misread several of our attempts at playfulness."
But even if Ignatius thinks Putin is a fussy old Dima Downer, he made sure to show Time's audience that he, himself, is a resevoir of one-liners -- at least when it comes to alluding to Putin as a dictator:
"Putin and Bush are fishing on the Volga River. After half an hour Bush complains, 'Vladimir, I'm getting bitten like crazy by mosquitoes, but I haven't seen a single one bothering you.' Putin: 'They know better than that.'" Zing!
"Stalin's ghost appears to Putin in a dream, and Putin asks for him help running the country. Stalin says, 'Round up and shoot all the democrats, and then paint the inside of the Kremlin blue.' 'Why blue?' Putin asks. 'Ha!' says Stalin. 'I knew you wouldn't ask me about the first part.'" Double zing!
"Putin goes to a restaurant with Medvedev and orders a steak. The waiter asks, 'And what about the vegetable?' Putin answers, 'The vegetable will have steak too.'" Triple zing!
Maybe next year, Gore, maybe next year.
*Thanks to my good friend, Brown, for providing me with the headline.