Following Instead of Leading at the G-8 and NATO Summit Theaters

And confirming that Russian President Vladimir Putin's excuse about not attending because he was forming his cabinet was hogwash, The Moscow Times reported today that the new cabinet "has a strikingly familiar look" -- all holdovers from Medvedev's term or Kremlin faithful.

Amusingly, Obama commented after his meeting with Hollande that he was grateful to the French leader "for being willing to come here so shortly after his election and the formation of his government."

Not that Obama didn't have allies. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gushed that the summit had achieved its goals of focusing on the future of Afghanistan, economic challenges, and adequate defense funding. With a hearty helping of effusive praise for the host, of course.

"Chicago is famous for thinking big and for doing great things. You have just organized the biggest summit in NATO’s history, and you have done it with great style," Rasmussen said. "The decisions we have taken here in Chicago will reinforce the vital bond between North America and Europe and strengthen NATO for the years ahead."

Obama closed the summit by thanking "my great friend" and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"As President, one of my top foreign policy priorities has been to strengthen our alliances, including NATO, and that's exactly what we’ve done," he boasted. "Two years ago in Lisbon, we took action in several areas that are critical to the future of our alliance and we pledged that in Chicago we would do more. Over the last two days, we have delivered."

Demonstrating have-you-learned-nothing-from-the-Putin-snub, Obama optimistically proclaimed, "I continue to believe that missile defense can be an area of cooperation with Russia."

He brushed off the lack of hard negotiations with Pakistan as something that wasn't designated to be solved at the Chicago summit anyway, saying his meeting with Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari was "very brief as we were walking into the summit."

"We think that Pakistan has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan, that it is in our national interest to see a Pakistan that is democratic, that is prosperous and that is stable, that we share a common enemy in the extremists that are found not only in Afghanistan, but also within Pakistan and that we need to work through some of the tensions that have inevitably arisen after 10 years of our military presence in that region," Obama told reporters.

The president was asked about G-8 discussions on Greece and whether it will stay in the eurozone, and expressed a sense of "greater urgency now" about Europe's financial issues "than perhaps existed two years ago or two and a half years ago."

"And keep in mind just for folks here in the States, when we look backwards at our response in 2008 and 2009, there was some criticism because we had to make a bunch of tough political decisions," Obama said. "In fact, there’s still criticism about some of the decisions we made.  But one of the things we were able to do was to act forcefully to solve a lot of these problems early."

And he took a bit of time to promote his hometown. "I was just talking to David Cameron. I think he’s sneaking off and doing a little sight-seeing before he heads home," Obama said. "I encouraged everybody to shop. I want to boost the hometown economy."

On Wednesday, the EU leaders who smiled for the cameras at Camp David and in Chicago will get less of the Obama campaign agenda and more of the dire problems confronting the continent's economy. Hollande will propose euro bonds, something hotly opposed by Merkel, while Italy and Britain are expected to get behind the new Socialist leader's plans. And the austerity plan that Merkel and Sarkozy championed, chiding the spend-and-spend countries to wake up to reality instead of incurring fresh debt?

It will be up to the most powerful woman in the world to try to lead Europe out of its mess, standing alone with her conservative principles.

Obama, meanwhile, will hit the trail this week to fundraise in Colorado, Silicon Valley, and Iowa.