Poodle Redux. Blair was denigrated as Bush's poodle, although his eloquence and influence over Bush were clear to all. In contrast, Gordon Brown is embarrassingly obsequious to Obama, in a way Blair never was around Bush. And in further contrast, Obama shows an airy, polite disdain at being courted in such grubby fashion—while Bush was downright magnanimous in taking advice from Blair. Didn't Brown get the message with the unviewable DVDs, the return of the Churchill bust, the 'UK size of Oregon' analogies? And will the press do a Brit "poodle" story?
Rich Rioters. Odd to see anarchists trying to burn and loot while some are text messaging and cell-phoning in the news clips—as if such ignoramuses can't grasp that nihilism and anti-capitalist angst lose their authenticity when they depend on the trademarks of the global corporate world. Spoiled Westerners tried to riot on TV before texting each other to meet for latte (no doubt at Starbucks); those in Peru or Chad are happy enough to have access to Amoxicillin via globalization.
Europe Out-europed. There is a certain sort of irony in London. Bush was so easily caricatured as the right-wing Texas-slanging cowboy that Euros found it easy to pose as progressive utopian antitheses. (Never mind that Bush in his second term was good to Europe, or that his positions on immigration, spending, new federal programs, etc. were hardly conservative.) Now Obama is trumping them all as a far more genuine leftist than any in Berlin or Paris. The President wants far bigger deficits than they do, wants more trade protectionism to protect domestic unions, wants to embrace cap and trade whole hog, is more eager to engage radical regimes abroad, and will pay for his socialism with big cuts in defense that will make it harder to protect socialist unarmed Europe.
All sorts of ironies arise: is all this sort of a 'be careful what you wish for' nemesis that Europe deserves? (I wrote about this for this week's TMS column). A sort of Obama doing a Nixon to China that everyone can take an odd delight in? (no liberal will dare suggest he is being rude to the Brits or having trouble connecting with our allies). Or is Obama reflecting new realities that the US is now a revolutionary society whose immigration the last 50 years has come from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, that in turn better warrant our attention? Hussein is not the middle name of most European ministers (nor are many of African heritages), and Obama reminds Europe that we too were a colony without much of a colonialist history. All so strange.
Debt, debt, debt everywhere. The backdrop behind the entire scene is that Obama is borrowing $1.7 trillion, and with future projected budgets that require perhaps another ca. $10 trillion over the next possible eight years. The message seems to be that we Americans need new entitlements that we cannot pay for, nor have we earned them with goods and services, but we want all of you abroad to lend us the cash nonetheless. Odd, as was pointed out a few posts ago, that we will have cradle-to-grave health care due to borrowed Chinese dollars that didn't go to basic cancer treatment to millions of Chinese who toil at factories.
And Apologies Too! Obama apologized for American culpability for the meltdown. But wait: Iceland melted without us. No American forced Austrian banks to lend 100% plus of their worth to eastern Europe. What did Wall Street have to do with the crazy Spanish or Aegean real estate market, or the nutty spending habits of oil-drunk Russians and Middle Easterners? If he wants to apologize (this is going to be a long Carter/Clinton "I'm sorry" Presidency), then, for God's sake apologize for the new borrowing, and draining the world's available capital to finance our out of control budgets.
Re: the new relations with Russia. I hope all the happy talk leads to less tensions. But it is easy to sort of promise to be nice, to push the "reset" button, or to talk grandly of new protocols; but the fact is that all this rhetoric means nothing.
What Obama must answer is to what degree is he going to turn Ukraine, Georgia, and other former Soviet republics back over to Russian influence, to what degree is he going to ignore Russian gas/oil blackmail over energy-hungry Western Europe, to what degree is he going to tsk tsk Russian complicity in Iran's nuclear program, to what degree is he going to drop talk of protecting eastern Europe (and Western) with an anti-ballistic system aimed at Iranian missiles, etc. If those really are issues, then we will have problems with an authoritarian and dictatorial Russia bent on restoring former grandeur.
Hope and Change. In every case, a democratic Russia, integrated within the West, could solve such tensions fairly easily. But I fear now that all of them are challenges that Putin, Inc. will see as means to an end, such as restoring domestic pride, restoring Russian hegemony in areas encroaching upon Eastern Europe, and creating more problems for the US that will check our power.
I fear that the Russians will leave praising Obama to the skies, while delighted that Iran's new bomb will cause us problems untold, that those in the East cannot trust us in a crisis, that Europe will learn to respect Russia if their flats are to stay warm—and that a rogue's gallery of global fascists will begin to look to Russia, in Cold War fashion, to deal with us to further their aims.
Bottom line: this is the first global summit that I can remember in which the United States is occupying a position to the left of all our allies, and, in our fiscal promiscuity, to the left of our left-wing rivals as well.