Obama’s ‘Give The World A Hug 2009′ Tour
Why are these men so happy?
In this group photo memorializing a G-20 Summit that produced little in the way of meaningful accomplishments, how are we to explain this display of joviality that reveals a budding ‘bromance’ amongst the world’s most powerful leaders?
Welcome to the Obama ‘Give The World A Hug’ Tour – a love-fest unlike any we’ve seen in a very long time. And if you want to know why all these men in suits – and the guy dressed in a thobe (robe), ghuttera (head scarf) and aqal (head band) – are smiling, it’s simple.
Each of them got to share the stage with the main attraction and bask in the warm spotlight that follows the world’s biggest star.
In a series of performances that, on the surface, appeared short on substance but long on superb stagecraft, Obama succeeded in delivering the real message he traveled to Europe to convey – “I’m not George Bush.”
The cynics out there – and you know who you are – will spend the coming days reminding us that Obama went to the G-20 with the goal of forcing the Europeans to inject larger sums of stimulus into their respective economies. As that didn’t happen, the naysayers will claim that Obama’s trip came up woefully short. They will pile on by pointing out that Obama’s goal for the NATO summit was to persuade the other members to ante up some combat troops for the fight in Afghanistan. Since that also didn’t happen, Obama will be returning home a total failure.
But the cynics don’t get it.
Obama knows all too well that the European sensitivity to pumping money into their system – and the inflation that is likely to result- prohibits them from taking these steps. After all, how can Angela Merkel avoid being influenced by the fact that it was Germany’s hyperinflation in the 1920’s, following a mass printing of money to pay repatriation and other expenses of WWI, that, more than any other factor, led to the rise of Adolf Hitler?
Just because all the nations of the world find themselves engulfed in the same economic crisis doesn’t mean that each nation can, or will, be able to respond in precisely the same way.
While Obama may not have succeeded in getting our fellow NATO members to commit combat troops to the Afghanistan effort, the others did agree to contribute 5,000 trainers and actually stood in support of America’s efforts versus the condemnation we have grown accustomed to from our NATO allies over the past eight years.
Obama went to Europe to do what had to be done – give the world the apology America owed for its behavior over the past eight years. Until we got that out of the way, moving forward promised to be difficult if not impossible. Obama delivered that apology while reminding everyone that they would do well to remember that America remains the world’s economic leader. While taking responsibility for our condescending attitude towards Europe during the Bush years, Obama was quick to remind our European friends that they played their own part in the deteriorating relationship by placing the blame for everything that goes wrong in the world on America.
Obama accomplished what had to be done without consigning the United States to spending the next four years sitting in the penalty box. By doing this so effectively, he has earned the right to hang a “mission accomplished” banner and actually mean it.
Still, many will wonder whether Obama’s contrition will send a message to our allies and adversaries that America has turned into an apologetic wimp. Some will say that in the world of high-stakes politics, love (and power) is never having to say you’re sorry.
While I may think that Obama did what was necessary to preserve our power, the cynics may turn out to be right. I know that I cannot help but look at the picture of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev yukking it up with Obama (Medvedev is the one in the photo who looks like he had the hottest date at the frat party-weekend) and wonder what is really on the Russian’s mind. Is he happy because Obama turned out to be a guy he can do business with and promised to bring the beer when he heads to Moscow this summer? Or is Medvedev giddy with joy because the young American leader turned out to be a total pushover?
For those who would choose option two, I would remind them of another lesson from history. After Khrushchev’s first meeting with newly elected president, John F. Kennedy, Khrushchev gleefully reported to the Soviet Politburo that the American leader was young, inexperienced and someone with whom the Soviets could have their way. It was this very assessment of the American president that emboldened the Soviets to place the missiles in Cuba that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
We all know how that worked out for our Russian friends.
Before assuming that Obama’s European trip failed due to no immediate and tangible results, we might do well to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln,”a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” Those words may very well prove to be as relevant today as they were back in Honest Abe’s time.
We should give Obama a chance to prove it.