Passport

King Juan Carlos's not-so-excellent vacation

In his classic essay Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell describes an experience he had as a colonial police officer in Burma. Under public pressure from a crowd of townspeople, he puts down an out-of-control elephant against his own wishes, describing it as the moment he "first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East." As the people of the town debate the merits and legality of his actions, he wonders "whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool."

It's tempting to wonder if any similarly penetrating insights or self-reflections have come to Spanish King Juan Carlos as he lies in the hospital, having injured his hip on an elephant shooting trip in Botswana that has ignited a firestorm of controversy. 

In addition to being about the least politically correct way to spend your vacation (was the baby seal-clubbing junket all booked up?) the optics of this were pretty terrible at a time when more than half of young Spaniards are out of work and Spanish banks are facing yet another downgrade. Plus, it turns out that the king -- who is Spain's official head of state -- didn't inform the government that he was leaving the country and might have used public funds in the process. 

Some leftist parties are calling for the king to abdicate or hold a referendum on returning to a republic. That doesn't seem to likely at the moment, but the king may still want to stick to the beach next time if he doesnt want to his country's surging ranks of unemployed. 

Passport

What happened to Obama's guayabera?

Something didn't happen at the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia over the weekend. Yes, Western hemisphere nations failed to reach consensus on including Cuba in the gathering, overhauling the region's drug policy (an expert taskforce will study the issue), or, really, much of anything. But I'm talking about something else: Barack Obama appears to have not worn a guayabera -- the light tropical dress shirt that several Latin American leaders are sporting in the summit photo-op above. And there's our president, looking decidedly stuffy in a suit jacket and (admittedly open) button-down. 

"Obama, loyal to his jacket. The others, in guayaberas," read a caption to a similar picture published in Venezuela's El Universal. (The article proceeds to critique the dress of several heads of state, noting that, among the female leaders, Costa Rica's Laura Chinchilla came closest to adopting the guayabera style.)

In the run-up to the summit, the daughter of Colombian designer Edgar Gómez Estévez told local media and the Spanish news agency EFE that she was making 130 guayaberas for Obama and that they would be more daring than usual because Obama was a "distinct, special, happy, and extroverted person." As far as I can tell, the White House never confirmed that Obama would be wearing a Gómez-designed guayabera.

Nevertheless, Cuba's Fidel Castro latched on to the reports, dubbing the event the "summit of the guayaberas" and criticizing the U.S. president for planning to wear a shirt that originated in Cuba while barring Cuba from attending the summit.

To be fair to Obama, it appears that several leaders at the summit decided to forego the guayabera (and some are even wearing ties!):

So what happened with Obama's wardrobe? Either the early media reports were wrong, or Obama had a change of heart about wearing the shirt. The real question: How long before we see a campaign ad accusing Obama of taking directives -- on fashion, no less -- from Fidel? 

EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images