Monday, January 28, 2013


The President and the Secretary of State appeared jointly on "60 Minutes" yesterday.
This was publicized as a first formal joint interview, which is generally reserved for presidents and first ladies who undo each other, holding hands like railings, in mild banter and mutual adoration.  This time, the antagonists of yesterday were supposed to act like a team of like-minded visionaries, if not close comrades-in-arms.  I wouldn't be surprised if this lukewarm performance were not some quid pro quo for President Clinton's pro-Obama speech during the Democratic convention.  Anyhow, the performance was lackluster.

Obama is on a high since his re-election and Mrs. Clinton certainly regrets that Benghazi occurred under her watch.  In reality, neither the President nor the Secretary of State have left a real mark on foreign policy as Kennedy, Bush Sr., Reagan and, often for worse, the latest President Bush did. The Russian Federation is putting Hillary's "reset" in deep-freeze.  The Asia "pivot " is timely but still irrelevant both in quantity and in quality. Only with regard to events in the South China Sea, North Korea and Iran did the President and Mrs. Clinton show some muscle. The area spring remains a "moving target."  South America is mostly ignored. Europe has become a nuisance.

For the time being, the Arab crescent is ablaze, Brazil and India are prematurely exemplified (when Mexico does better) and Bush's former Axis of Evil remains unpredictable, notwithstanding Governor Richardson's presumed savoir faire in Pyongyang.  It is high time to take the Chinese on board, there and elsewhere. Only engagement will work and we are heading towards a G2, volens/nolens.

I miss Kissinger while I do recognize Hillary's global networking, which has made her the top-admired woman worldwide.  Still, dropping name cards does not equal, nor could ever attempt to equal, Henry's shuttle diplomacy or START, even  Nixon who was pathological in  small (often vulgar talk) raised to the occasion as a Statesman in the long run.  Ronald Reagan was, likewise, a man whose strong instincts proved harder to crack than sophisticated analysis.

The "60 Minutes" talk was awkward, a contrived, fake performance. The body language was wooden and the bilateral modus vivendi of the last four years is already in need of emergency care.  The Clinton's never forget (Rand Paul had better remember.)  In his second term Obama will be hiding behind a praetorian guard of unconditional's.  Republicans are trying to regroup, but the asp bites of tea and guns are ready to strike the nostalgia of bipartisanship, the more so since Obama has chosen to be part of an ideology rather than trying to bring together a country split in half.

John Kerry, the new Secretary of State, doesn't (yet) have these Freudian dysfunctions with the President, which is good.   On the other hand, the firewall around Obama has gotten tighter and consequently the role of the smart court jesters will fatally be enlarged. This is not innocent at a time wherein 2013 has already vanished under the fresh paint coat of 2016.  Obama doesn't have to run.  Still he doesn't let anyone look at his cards or hint at how he will coach his Democratic successor to the finish line.  Don't be fooled by his incantations, he has become too shrewd to let people guess. I doubt that the cool "love fest" on "60 Minutes" will have a lasting effect. Christian Mingles couples appear even more happy than those two.

In fine, both Obama and Clinton missed an opportunity to rally around the convalescence of a dream inside and on a reflection on the strengths and limits of America's power worldwide.  The US can no longer maintain peace and prosperity on its own. The intersection of terrorism and nuclear material on the loose requires more than a chat. The radicals in the Middle East are crushing the hopes of the "Arab Spring." Asia will be Number One in the next decade.  Economic depression in the West, which is starting to look like a Rustbelt, and negative climate change require more than some "happy half-hour chat" between former competitors.  Who said "Where's the beef?" Two highly intelligent  individuals missed  opportunities both to ease the past and to be visionaries of a new worldview  with like minded allies rather than doing it alone . The message will not fall in dead ears in Mali, Yemen, Lybia  m,Somala and other failed states. Even the French  (who should know better after Dien Bien Phu, Indochina,  Algeria)) will experience that getting in is easier than getting out.The British,the Russians leaned their lesson in Afghanistan. The Americans still did not get it..
I wish Obama and Cinton would have gone back to Kissinger's "Balance of Power"  in a globalised word,rather that talking shop.

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