Written by Jack Kelly
Friday, 20 November 2009
President Obama took his massive ego and sparse historical knowledge to Asia last week. The results were so ugly even the New York Times took notice. Obama's Pacific Trip Encounters Rough Waters was its headline over a news analysis yesterday (11/19).
"Has a president ever been less successful on a trip overseas than President
Obama has on his eight day excursion to Asia," asked Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard. "I've been covering presidents since Gerald Ford and I can't think of one."
The trip began at the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in Singapore where Mr. Obama declared himself to be America's first Pacific president, on the grounds that he was born in Hawaii, and lived for a couple of years as a child in Indonesia.
Mr. Obama either forgot or never knew that William Howard Taft had been governor-general of the Philippines before becoming president, or that Richard Nixon -- who spent more time in the Pacific in World War II than Mr. Obama spent in Indonesia -- was responsible for the opening to China.
At the APEC conference, Mr. Obama acknowledged he will be unable to obtain the international agreement on curbing so-called greenhouse gases he has sought. This is good news for the United States, but a setback for him.
From APEC Mr. Obama went to Japan, where he startled his hosts and many of his countrymen by bowing low to Emperor Akihito.
The bow, an academic expert on Japan told Jake Tapper of ABC News, was in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with a "Karate Kid level knowledge" of Japanese customs.
The bow as he performed it did not just display weakness in American terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms, Mr. Tapper's expert said. The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak-looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.\
The most important stop on the president's itinerary was China, where things went worse for him than they had in Singapore or Japan.
"When it came to China, President Obama's famous powers of persuasion failed to persuade," wrote Barbara Demick in the Los Angeles Times. "Not only is the U.S. president coming away without definable concessions, but the Chinese appeared to be digging in their heels."
Mr. Obama had sought three things in China.
First, he wanted Chinese support for sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. Second, he wanted China to agree to curbs on fossil fuel emissions. Third, he wanted China to agree to a more realistic value for its currency. He got stiffed on all three.
The most important of these is the currency issue. China pegs the value of the renmimbi (also called the yuan) artificially low in relation to the dollar to boost sales of its exports. This essentially mercantilist policy (against which Adam Smith railed in The Wealth of Nations) makes it harder for us to sell things to the Chinese, and for our economy to recover.
What Mr. Obama received was a lecture on the danger of U.S. budget deficits, and criticism of the protectionist policies his administration has implemented.
Mr. Obama was treated with far less respect than were Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush when they visited China.
He acquiesced as the Chinese subjected him to the humiliation of a choreographed town hall meeting with student members of the Young Communist League, Mr. Barnes wrote. And he suffered through a 30-minute news conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao in which no questions from the media were allowed.
To date, the Obama foreign policy has consisted of efforts to appease America's enemies and to bully America's friends. Neither has worked.
In remarks reported Wednesday (11/18), Iran's foreign minister said he opposes sending uranium out of the country, effectively putting the kibosh on a deal the Obama administration thought the Iranians had agreed to.
"Iran has very publicly played President Obama for a fool, faking their way through negotiations that were a farce from the get-go," wrote the Weekly Standard's John Noonan.
Mr. Obama seems oblivious to the shambles about him. "I've restored America's standing in the world," he told CNN Wednesday.
He may be the only person on the planet who thinks so.
Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
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