Dame Karen Pierce — British Ambassador to the United States — knows plenty about diplomacy. But what does she know about the AMC Ambassador, one of the finest low-end luxury automobiles of the 1950s and '60s? We'll find out in a game called "I like my ambassadors to go vroom vroom."
Click the audio link above to find out how she does.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask very respected people to knock themselves down a peg. Dame Karen Pierce of Great Britain is one of the world's most accomplished diplomats. She has served around the world, and now she's gracing the U.S. with her measured presence as ambassador to the United States. I should say, by the way, we recorded this interview before the news about the president's diagnosis. Dame Karen Pierce, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
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KAREN PIERCE: Thank you very much.
SAGAL: It's a pleasure to have you. You have been on the job not quite a year. Is that right?
PIERCE: Less than that. I came in March and walked straight into lockdown. So, actually, I've not been out and about much in Washington.
SAGAL: So your impression of America, then, is it's about four conjoined rooms and not very well-populated after all.
PIERCE: Luckily for me, this is the fourth time I've served diplomatically in America - twice in New York, and this is my second time in Washington. So I think that helps.
SAGAL: It does. It does.
BRIAN BABYLON: I have a question.
SAGAL: Go ahead, Brian.
BABYLON: I always wanted to know - I guess this was a "Lethal Weapon" movie. This guy would say, you can't touch me. I have diplomatic immunity. What - is that real? And if so, what can you get away with as a diplomat here?
PIERCE: Oh, I need to say we are very respectful of the laws of all the countries we serve in, including in the United States of America.
SAGAL: Right. So how many people have you killed?
PIERCE: No, no, I'm a good civilian. And we obey the law.
SAGAL: Not even a little temptation, like 20 items in the 12-items-or-less line just to flex the muscle a little? Nothing?
PIERCE: Absolutely not, no, no.
SAGAL: All right.
MAZ JOBRANI: I have a question. Are there any world leaders that we see depicted in one way but, in reality, they're actually very different? Like, is there anybody that surprised you when you met them? You go whoa maybe in a good way?
PIERCE: I used to work a lot on the Balkans. And I was always surprised, particularly given the terrible things they did to each other in the 1990s. But I was always surprised. When you met them as individuals, no matter which ethnicity they came from, they were the sort of people you could easily go to a party with and sing songs with.
SAGAL: All right. You've just raised an interesting question. So you were talking about your service in the Balkans, which is a byword for vicious, internecine civil war. Let's not pick on Mr. Wallace. If you were the moderator at the next presidential debate, do you think you could handle it using your lifetime of diplomatic skills?
PIERCE: Ooh, I wouldn't dream of...
PIERCE: ...(Inaudible) Professional journalists like Chris Wallace.
SAGAL: Is there a way that you can basically tell a powerful, arrogant person to their face to stop behaving that way in a way they'll be heard? And here, I'm asking for a nation.
JESSI KLEIN: (Laughter) Asking for a friend who is also a nation we live in.
PIERCE: When you're the president of the Security Council, you actually control the speaking buttons. So that's a great help.
SAGAL: Oh, wait a minute. You actually - you're sitting there when you're sitting in the president's seat. Then you can actually turn people off if you like?
PIERCE: Yes, you can.
SAGAL: Are there any electric shock collars that you can - or in the seats that you might be able to use? And if so, can we borrow them?
PIERCE: I think you actually don't need anything other than the power of that mute button.
SAGAL: That's a wonderful power to have. You also had the time to go viral in a video about making a proper cup of tea, if I'm not mistaken.
PIERCE: Yes, that's absolutely right. There was an American lady living in the U.K. who put on social media how to make a cup of tea in the microwave. It may be difficult to convey to your audience quite how dreadful that is from a British point of view.
PIERCE: And our military felt particularly strongly about it. So they asked if I would front up this little Twitter video. And we had them - you know, clips of a paratrooper making what we call a brew out in the woods somewhere with hardly any equipment. We had someone in a jet plane. We had someone else on the ship, the whole point being that, wherever they were, they were not using a microwave.
PIERCE: We'd try fish and chips next.
KLEIN: Is an electric kettle OK? Does that count, or does it need to be over fire?
PIERCE: No, no. You may use an electric kettle.
PIERCE: But (unintelligible) Brits will almost tear themselves apart on whether you put the milk in first into a cup of tea or you put the milk in last.
SAGAL: Well, you are...
KLEIN: I have been so politely yelled at by my British friends about tea.
PIERCE: Yeah. I...
BABYLON: If someone gives you a cup of microwaved tea, would you spit it out? Like, how dare you give me this microwave water? Can you tell microwave water from boiled water?
SAGAL: That's what caused the War of 1812, Brian. I'm not sure you knew that.
PIERCE: Yes, I think you can tell. I wouldn't spit it out 'cause that would be rude. But I might find a reason to leave the room.
SAGAL: Well, Dame Karen, it is an absolute joy to speak to you, but we have to put you through the paces. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: I Like My Ambassadors To Go Vroom, Vroom.
SAGAL: So you are, of course, an ambassador by trade and training. But we were wondering what do you know about the AMC Ambassador, one of the finest low-end luxury American automobiles of the 1950s and '60s. So we're going to ask you three questions about the classic car. Get two out of three right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Ambassador Pierce playing for?
KURTIS: Sam Dixon of Orlando, Fla.
SAGAL: Here's your first question. The Ambassador was sold as a more affordable luxury car, so luxurious that the 1958 Ambassador was the only one of its competitors to offer what as a standard feature - A, ashtrays for the whole family; B, five wheels for that extra-wheel feeling; or C, fur-lined brakes?
PIERCE: Oh, please tell me it's fur-lined brakes.
SAGAL: Now, do you want me to tell you that it is fur-lined brakes, or are you asserting that it is, in fact, fur-lined brakes?
PIERCE: No, I think it's five wheels.
SAGAL: Five wheels for that extra-wheel feeling. No, it was actually ashtrays for the whole family.
PIERCE: No (laughter).
SAGAL: Two in the front, two in the back. It was a different time, ambassador. What can we say? All right. You have two more chances. Here's your next question. Now, the car line had its share of problems through the years. Why did Consumer Reports pan the 1967 Ambassador? Was it A, the Ambassador convertible model was just a regular car with the roof ripped off; B, if you hit the brakes too hard, the car would spill gasoline all over the place; or C, the glove compartment was so big, people would actually lose their gloves in its depths?
PIERCE: (Laughter) I think we're right at the limits of my knowledge of cars here. I'm going to go for the first one?
SAGAL: The first one, that the - that when they sold the Ambassador convertible, it was just a regular Ambassador car that they had just ripped the roof off and sold it as a convertible.
PIERCE: Yes, I'm sure it's wrong.
SAGAL: It is, in fact, wrong. The answer was the second one. If you hit the brakes too hard, the gasoline would slosh all over the inside and outside of the car because they didn't make the gas tank too secure. All right. You still have one more chance, Ambassador. I'm sure you'll get this one.
Now Tom Magliozzi, who is the co-host of NPR's famous show Car Talk, often talked in the show about his beloved Sleek Black Beauty, a 1966 Ambassador convertible. What were the circumstances under which he parted with it - A, he sold it after knocking over his mailbox while backing it out of the driveway for the eighth time; B, when he was out to lunch one day, his brother and co-host Ray Magliozzi took it to the crusher; or C, he forgot where he parked it and never saw it again?
PIERCE: The brother took it to the crusher.
SAGAL: That is exactly right.
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SAGAL: That's what happened. Car Talk fans obviously would have guessed that anyway. Ray, the guy who got rid of the car, said it was so rusted that it couldn't even cast a shadow by that time. And Tom, the guy who owned it and presumably loved it, didn't even notice it was gone for six months. Bill, how did Dame Karen Pierce do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, Dame Karen, we want to remain diplomatic.
KURTIS: You got one right. And we're going to spread that into three right...
PIERCE: Oh, thank you.
KURTIS: ...And judge you a winner on our show. Thank you for coming.
SAGAL: It's our version of diplomatic immunity. You cannot legally lose on our show because, here, it is technically the territory of Great Britain, and you're a winner.
PIERCE: Oh, well, that's very kind.
SAGAL: Dame Karen Pierce is the British ambassador to the United States. You can follow her on Twitter @KarenPierceUK. Ambassador Pierce, what an absolute joy to speak to you. Thank you for your service to your country and ours. And thank you so much for being on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
PIERCE: Well, thanks so much. It's such an honor. This has been one of the best things I've done since I came to Washington.
SAGAL: I'm both flattered and very, very sorry.
SAGAL: Thank you so much, Ambassador. Take care.
PIERCE: Bye-bye. Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE REAL AMBASSADORS")
LAMBERT, HENDRICKS AND ROSS: (Singing) Who's the real ambassador? It is evident we represent American society...
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