Tips for Think

In times dominated by momentous questions of war and foreign policy, a particular kind of Washingtonian is bound to thrive: the think-tank pundit. But competition is relentless. Good judgment and extensive research may help advance a career, but what really matters in Washington is an elusive quality known as Say-sO Superiority, or SOS. Staffers at Asia Policy Point, a Washington foreign policy research center, devised the following highly scientific measure to calculate a speakers SOS score (and to keep themselves awake during luncheon talks).

Mention of recent trip to a war zone or country not recognized by the U.S.:
Sadr City 10
Fallujah 8
Tora Bora 7
The Green Zone Burger King 3
Darfur 1

Mention of recreational activity with senior U.S. official:
When I was jogging recently with …
Condi 9
John Negroponte 8
Bob Gates 8
W. 4
The Vice President 0

Mention of recreational activity with foreign official or leader:
When I was skiing recently with …
Prince Bandar 9
Tony Blair 7
Angela Merkel 6
Hugo Chvez 2
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 0

Mention of relationship with former U.S. president or cabinet official:
When I was playing bridge recently with …
Bill Clinton 10
Colin Powell9
Brent Scowcroft 8
Henry Kissinger 6
Jimmy Carter 0.5
John Bolton0

Ability to offer advice to announced or potential presidential candidate:
When I was sharing my thoughts on switchgrass recently with …
Barack 9
Hillary 9
Newt 6
Senator McCain 3
Tom Vilsack 1

Mention of conversation with ordinary citizen of country within area of expertise:
Sunni insurgent 10
Contented Indian call-center employee 5
Idealistic Iranian student 3
Garrulous Nigerian taxi driver 1
Room service 0

Excuse for being five minutes late for speaking engagement:
Meeting with Ayatollah Sistani ran late 10
Meeting with Dick Cheney ran late 6
Meeting with Norm Mineta ran late 1
Felt barfy 0

Preparation/poise:
Jotting down speaking notes while being introduced 10
Complimenting co-panelist 8
Proposing a new Marshall plan 6
Wearing a brown suit 2
Screaming Allahu akbar 0