I never pass up a chance to poke fun at Vaclav Klaus, the arrogant Czech head of state that has often done more harm than good to this country over the past 20 years. It’s been easier the past few months after his now infamous pen snatch in Chile a few months ago, which then became a viral sensation on YouTube, with 3 million views and counting. (By the way, if you never saw the Jay Leno take on the Klaus incident, it’s a real good laugh.)

If you were thinking that Klaus might stay in the shadows after that controversy—which drove his usually high popularity in the Czech Republic down to 47 percent in April, a new low—then you don’t know Klaus well. He was down under this week in Australia, not on an official visit, but to give one of his typical anti-global-warning rants, this time called the “mass delusion of climate change”. The visit was sponsored by the Institute of Public Affairs think tank.

According to ABC, Australia’s public broadcaster, this is what then happened:

The president, in Canberra to address the National Press Club, was on his way for an interview with ABC1′s 7.30 – which has its Canberra studio within the House – and through the security checkpoint.
Waiting for him there was Michelle Ainsworth, mild-mannered producer for 7.30, ready to usher him up to the ABC studio where reporter Chris Uhlmann was already seated at the desk, lights on, cameras focused.
But going through security with all the plebs was not on Mr Klaus’s agenda. Ainsworth takes up the story.
“As soon as he saw the security device he stopped and said: ‘I’m not going through there’,” Ainsworth told ABC News Online.
“So I told him that everyone goes through. To which he repeated he wasn’t going to go through.
“I told the security guard that he is the Czech president here for an interview, but he doesn’t want to go through the metal detector.
“The guard’s reply was blunt and to the point: ‘I don’t care who he is, everyone goes through’.
“So I told the president there were no exceptions. He replied, ‘I will not go through. I’m leaving. I’m going back to my hotel. If you want to interview me you can do it there’.
“He didn’t even say goodbye. He just left.”

ABC News quipped on its website that Klaus “was not taking any chances of souvenirs being found in his pocket at Parliament House on Tuesday.”

In the view of Czech protocol experts, Klaus, however, was right: Heads of state should not have to go through metal directors, but really, couldn’t the man just grin and bear it, instead of just creating another (minor) scandal?

The Czech public seems somewhat split, in a poll quoted by the Czech Position website:

According to a survey run by the news weekly, Týden, 44 percent of Czechs agreed that their president’s prestige had been undermined. But just under a third (32 percent) thought security rules should apply to all, and 24 percent said the whole incident was just another example of exaggerated behavior by Klaus.

Overall, it wasn’t a great week for Klaus as he also appeared in Norwegian madman Andres Breivik’s manifesto (I’m again quoting her from Czech Position):

Breivik’s “Czech connection” also includes some of the ideological inspiration for his attacked. A fervent opponent of the European Union for diluting European national values, the warped Norwegian was a fan of Czech euroskeptic president Václav Klaus. Citing Klaus as an admirer of US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Breivik approvingly quotes his attacks on the EU’s “democratic deficit.” Breivik, who describes Europe as the “EUSSR,” in a reference to the former Soviet Union, believed the EU had to be destroyed for the continent to have any chance of salvation.

It should be said that Klaus publicly condemned the massacre.

Jeremy Druker

Jeremy Druker is the executive director and editor in chief of Transitions Online. Twitter: @JeremyDruker Email: jeremy.druker@tol.org

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