While much of the mainsteam media was huffing and puffing about “Hug Gate” – the supposed gaffe where Michelle Obama was seen with her arm around Queen Elizabeth, which Buckingham Palace dismissed as a “spontaneous show of mutual affection” – Barack Obama was actually busy doing what a global leader is supposed to do: Leading
It’s forgivable if we sort-of forgot over the past eight years what real leadership looks like.
Instead, we had The Decider and Shotgun Dick with their international bullying, “you’re with us or against us,” “the Constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper” and trips to the dark side way of doing things. And when Dubya wasn’t busy grabbing Angela Merkel’s shoulders, praising the Philippines for providing the White House with so many good waiters or ensuring Cheney’s pals at Halliburton and KBR could rob the US Treasury of billions in no-bid contracts, he was busy lying to Congress and destroying 225 years of the American ethic and ethos.
So what does actual American leadership mean? Thursday afternoon in London, the G20 Summit was about to fall apart in shambles over finding a way to pull the world back from the precipice of another Great Depression because China’s president Hu Jintao and French president Nicholas Sarkozy squabbled over limiting tax havens. To resolve the issue, Pres. Obama first takes Hu into a corner of the room to discuss Chinese concerns, then walks Sarkozy into another corner to do the same thing, and then brings the two of them together to work out a compromise.
Huh! Seems like being a community organizer paid off, not just for Obama but now for the world.
In reading European and Asian newspapers today, Obama’s presence at the G20 was hailed as a major triumph because he single-handedly not only saved the gathering from collapsing in disagreement, he renewed America’s standing in the world.
“Measures agreed after intervention from Obama” headlines The Guardian.
Crows The Independent: “Markets soar after President brokers 'historic' G20 deal between world leaders to bring end to recession.”
“US President Barack Obama broke a ‘logjam’ inside tense G20 negotiations between France and China on Friday (Hong Kong time) over the crucial issue of tax havens,” declares The South China Morning Post.
In Paris, Le Monde praises Obama with a lead headline, “Sommets du G20 et de l'OTAN : la méthode Obama.”
Yet what does Friday’s New York Times e-mail summary of the day’s paper say? “Mr. Obama emerged Thursday from his first summit meeting with a handful of modest concrete commitments.”
Did Helene Cooper, the Times reporter at the G20, cover the same meeting? Apparently neither she nor Margaret Warner of PBS’ NewsHour were anywhere near the conference center because, on Thursday night’s broadcast, Warner characterized Obama as having “an OK day.”
Mainstream Media Nonsense
As if to underscore journalism’s poor state, when the 2009 Peabody Awards were announced yesterday, both Saturday Night Live and the video version of The Onion were honored.
The awards committee says of SNL, “The late-night legend stole the election-year thunder from its satirical competition on cable and may have swayed the race itself.” As for The Onion, “The satirical tabloid's online send-up of 24-hour cable-TV news was hilarious, trenchant and not infrequently hard to distinguish from the real thing.”
When so much of broadcast news is reduced to talking heads yelling at each other, Bill O’Reilly’s lies, out-of-context quotes and “terrorist journalism,” and Glenn Beck’s utter claptrap, it is both refreshing and stunning that so-called fake news sources such as SNL, The Onion, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert receive reporting awards.
Meanwhile, Beck continues to blather and blubber at his new Fox News home:
On To Europe
Having triumphed at the G20, Pres. Obama is now in Strasbourg for a NATO summit. He held a town hall meeting there this morning before the NATO gathering, speaking to a capacity crowd in an auditorium and taking questions as comfortably as if he were talking to folks in, oh, Omaha or Birmingham.
It is truly nice to have a real grown-up, an actual adult, running the United States.
UPDATE: Appearing on one of the Friday morning network shows, Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said it was nice to not hold your breath in anticipation of a major gaffe when the president spoke. As my friend Susan noted in an e-mail to me this morning, it's great to have someone in the White House who has a brain.