Why Letterman's interview with Zelenskyy missed the mark

2 January, 06:57 PM

The interview certainly wasn’t a hit, but it was possible to see a new face

It seemed to me that there was a gap between the two interlocutors, which was plugged by clumsy jokes. Letterman behaved as usual, and Zelenskyy, apparently, too. But the interview did not work out.

That doesn't mean it was bad. It is actually quite frank. However, the little girl inside me would like to see the president confident, rested and strong. Someone that you can rely on and know that he will be able to do what needs doing. Instead, we were given a living being who was imperfect as a president, as a commander-in-chief, and simply as a human being. And that's what makes the conversation interesting. Behind it, there was a very tired but strong person who continues to fight no matter what.

Video of day

The main arguments that the world heard the Ukrainian language on yet another platform, and that Ukraine is being talked about at different levels and from every angle, are clear. Wonderful.

But I would also like my president to be an intellectual, to make jokes spontaneously and sharply as if they were scripted. For him to have impeccable English and a wide vocabulary that would impress my heart, as well as the hearts of the Western snobs who decide the fate of countries.

Zelenskyy is not yet “one of them” for the Western world, but he is not "alien," either. He is something in the middle, transitional in the sense of a “transitional president.” Without his qualities, it will be impossible to move on. But there, "further on," he will need qualities which he lacks, because he polishes others skills, and not because he’s “not like that”. But he sits in this chair and talks to the world.

It is hard to imagine Letterman having someone like Poroshenko or Kuchma. Not because it would be impossible in a purely historical sense, but because it would be impossible to feed the Western audience and the Western show biz industry. There simply wouldn't be enough shared cultural codes.

There are not enough of them here either, but they are being skillfully constructed right before your eyes, built like bridges. Maybe that's why this conversation seems a little strained, even when they're joking. There is no naturalness, but it is clear that both are trying their best to please both each other and the audience. And that's great.

So, no dialogue between Letterman as a representative of that same West,in the sense of having the freedom to joke about politics, be real, laugh at oneself, and ask uncomfortable questions, with any other Ukrainian president would be possible.

In my opinion, the interview was not successful because of the general tension that hung in the air the whole way, as a result of which both men are squeezed, constrained by the discomfort of saying the wrong thing. And despite all the paraphernalia of the show – armchairs, "household "inserts" and unexpected, irrelevant questions – the conversation is airtight, almost devoid of spontaneity. And this is very surprising, because Zelenskyy has spent his life with a microphone.

The interview definitely missed its mark, but it was possible to see a new face. Not like hundreds of motivational videos written by someone else and recorded from a sheet of paper in several takes. Exposing himself as a living, imperfect person, Zelenskyy openly says that he does not have the answers to every question, including the most important one: when the war will end. For a moment, he ceases to be the president on whom so many expectations are placed and becomes just a person. And that is the greatest value of this conversation.

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