Free Markets, Free People

Obama’s Asian Tour: Manufactured Failure Or Real Failure?

James Fallows, at the Atlantic, is pretty sure President Obama’s Asian tour was much more successful than the media gives him credit for, and, in fact, entitles his piece “Manufactured Failure“. His premise? That the media covered the trip much more like a campaign swing and thus missed its real and more subtle significance – and success. His proof? A couple of reader comments.

That’s not to say he may not have a bit of a point as it concerns the media coverage, but on the substantive side he needs to explain this if everything went so swimmingly but, apparently, unnoticed by the press:

Barack Obama looked tired on Thursday, as he stood in the Blue House in Seoul, the official residence of the South Korean president. He also seemed irritable and even slightly forlorn. The CNN cameras had already been set up. But then Obama decided not to play along, and not to answer the question he had already been asked several times on his trip: what did he plan to take home with him? Instead, he simply said “thank you, guys,” and disappeared. David Axelrod, senior advisor to the president, fielded the journalists’ questions in the hallway of the Blue House instead, telling them that the public’s expectations had been “too high.”

The master of spin’s spin is the public’s expectation’s had been “too high”? Wow – I guess Axelrod missed all that subtlety, nuance and success as well.

Der Speigel, however, did seem to have a pretty good bead on the actual results.  You remember how I said we should monitor the progress this “new” method of conduction foreign policy does in the world of realpolitik?  Here’s how:

Interests, not emotions, dominate the world of realpolitik. The Asia trip revealed the limits of Washington’s new foreign policy: Although Obama did not lose face in China and Japan, he did appear to have lost some of his initial stature.

In Tokyo, the new center-left government even pulled out of its participation in a mission which saw the Japanese navy refueling US warships in the Indian Ocean as part of the Afghanistan campaign. In Beijing, Obama failed to achieve any important concessions whatsoever. There will be no binding commitments from China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A revaluation of the Chinese currency, which is kept artificially weak, has been postponed. Sanctions against Iran? Not a chance. Nuclear disarmament? Not an issue for the Chinese.

The White House did not even stand up for itself when it came to the question of human rights in China. The president, who had said only a few days earlier that freedom of expression is a universal right, was coerced into attending a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at which questions were forbidden. Former US President George W. Bush had always managed to avoid such press conferences.

How bad is the growing lack of respect? You have a German magazine which was an Obama booster criticizing his foreign policy and comparing Obama to George Bush and finding Obama wanting.

Somewhere pigs are flying. What isn’t flying, however, is this “new” era in US foreign policy.



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31 Responses to Obama’s Asian Tour: Manufactured Failure Or Real Failure?

    • A) As shark points out the comment was about the magazine, not the writer. B) Making your claim does nothing to refute what he wrote – Axelrod either said what he said he did or he didn’t. The outcomes were as the writer reported them or they weren’t. Trying to attack the messenger isn’t a very convincing defense, Oliver, it’s a distraction.

  • Hey fOliver, you were a regular critic of Bush and the GOP, so I guess everything you ever wrote or will write about them should be dismissed on those grounds also?

    Go back to suckling on the Soros’ teat where you belong.

  • I made my comment because McQ makes a case in this blog entry that Der Spiegel is pro-Obama and that gives their critique of him here more weight. My link shows that this particular writer has been negative on Obama for some time, so that should be taken into consideration.

  • So McQ makes a comment about the newspaper and you respond with a comment about the writer.

    Slight difference there.

  • What’s interesting at all Mr Willis is you feel the need to rebutt the observation that suddenly some of the world may be falling out of love with our Messiah and is catching on to his antics of, as the salesmen in the joke, telling us how good it’s going to be.
    When he tells us how good it’s going to be the Euro’s don’t really care, but when he’s done it enough to them, they might pay attention and actually say something about it.  Quelle Surprise.  Now it’s starting to happen abroad as it surely must, and I gather you’re getting a jump on it and ‘speaking truth to power’ to let the faithful know that that ‘guy over there in Germany’  is just a German right wing conservative racist birther crank,  clutching his gun and Bible.

  • Well the premise isn’t supported by any actual fact, and in this case just one guy’s perception. And shark, the story he’s citing is by this writer.

    • So he’s lying about Axelrod’s quote? And if not, what is Axelrod talking about? Did he or did he not accomplish any of the things the writer talks about (the supposed goals of his trip)? Those have nothing to do with “one guy’s perception”. They either happened or they didn’t. He’s saying they didn’t – you have anything to refute those claims?

      • I’m not disputing Axelrod’s quote. What I am disputing is this guy’s characterization of hopeless fail, because that seems to be how he characterizes everything with Obama’s name on it.

        • Have you got something that doesn’t have hopeless fail written on it?  Jobs created or saved?  Stimulus?  Cash for Clunkers? Deficit reduction? Most transparent administration in history?  Bills posted on line for 5 days before signing?
          Hey, wait! he has managed to almost destroy Honduras for abiding by it’s Consitition, if you’re Manuel Zelaya, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, or Daniel Ortega I guess you could say THAT wasn’t a failure.

        • Oliver – here’s the quote. Tell me what’s wrong with it?

          In Tokyo, the new center-left government even pulled out of its participation in a mission which saw the Japanese navy refueling US warships in the Indian Ocean as part of the Afghanistan campaign. In Beijing, Obama failed to achieve any important concessions whatsoever. There will be no binding commitments from China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A revaluation of the Chinese currency, which is kept artificially weak, has been postponed. Sanctions against Iran? Not a chance. Nuclear disarmament? Not an issue for the Chinese.

          If those weren’t the goals of the trip, what were they? And how did he accomplish them. And if he did, what was Axelrod talking about?

          Either what the guy wrote is a proper characterization of the events or it isn’t. If it isn’t present something to refute it. If you can’t, then all your nonsense about his characterizations concerning Obama don’t mean a thing. The fact that he may attack Obama on a regular basis doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

          • I think the goal of the trip was to start moving towards the end point on those issues. I’ve never known of an American president going on a mission like that expecting every single dispute to be cleared up. The way the story is written is as if Obama went into a lab and came out and didnt cure cancer in that one lab visit. Its ridiculous.

          • If the goal was to start moving towards the end point on those issues, given the paragraph describing what happened, how was that goal accomplished? Or, as it appears, was no progress made toward that goal? Again, you’ve avoided some specific points for a bit of spin. Why not address those points in the paragraph specifically?

          • The paragraph seems, at best, to be describing the ultimate end points and not incrementalism. Did anyone expect for China to just go “yeah, you’re right on everything, we’ll do what you said”? I sure didn’t. Now, do I think that Obama’s way of getting to those goals will, eventually, be more fruitful than the previous administration? Yep.

          • Now, do I think that Obama’s way of getting to those goals will, eventually, be more fruitful than the previous administration? Yep.

            And your definition of “fruitful” would be…what?
            How would you measure whether the goal of “fruitful” is met?

          • It seemed as if he went backwards on some points and nowhere on others, from that article.  Japan will no longer help refuel American ships in the gulf.  In China there was no progress on any issue mentioned, and his town hall appearance was censored, as was the joint press conference.  What progress did he make, incrementally or otherwise?

          • It’s sort of like a fat, nerdy guy who wants a really popular girl to go out with him.  He fantasizes about it, tells all his friends that it’s in the bag, even starts mentally planning the marriage and picking out names for their kids, goes out and buys flowers, presents them to her, asks her out…

            And gets shot down.

            “Hey, at least she TALKED to me!”

                 “Dude, all she said was, ‘no way’.”

            “She likes me, I can tell!  I made her laugh!”

                 “She was laughing AT you.”

            “I’m wearin’ her down!  I’m playing it just right.”

                 “Yeah, you keep thinking that.”

          • The only question remaining .. has Obama or TOTUS lost their “mojo” ?
            I think it’s both.

          • What did he accomplish, even incrementally, toward those goals Oliver? You’re the one claiming it happened – what were the “incremental” accomplishments?

  • Somewhere pigs are flying.

    And somewhere in Maine a professor is crying.

  • And as for an obit on the current Presidency, I think President Imeme is doing a very nice job of writing it all on his own.
    If we were to contrast the President’s plans and claims of what he was going to do and fix chronologically in the same way you did the German writer you think isn’t qualified to comment, I suspect we’d see that he’s not much on being a President at the moment when we consider his record to date.  Or can you name some successes that go beyond speeches, trips, golf games, and winning a Nobel Prize for talking about how good it’s going to be?  I mean, how’s that base cloing thing going at GitmoThe economy? Health Care by August? the decision ‘soon’ on Afghanistan? anything aside from tossing his appointees under various passing buses and blaming George Bush for all his problems?

  • But… but… but… People around the world were supposed to LOVE us again!  And… and… and… the mere PRESENCE of Imeme in world capitals was supposed to start a new era of cooperation and friendship with the United States!  I mean, he got a Nobel Peace Prize, just like Al Gore and Yassar Arafat and the IAEA and Gandhi.  Oh… Well, maybe not that last guy, but you get my drift.  And he even said himself that polls show that the world likes us more than they did when Bush (who never got a Nobel Peace Prize) was in office.  So there!

    And now some dirty anti-Obama German is daring to say that the trip wasn’t a roaring success???  How dare he!  He’s probably just holding a grudge because Imeme didn’t show up to that little ceremony they had at some wall in Berlin.  And what evidence does he give?  None whatsoever!

    Well, yeah, OK: the Japanese are no longer going to help us so much in A-stan.  And the Red Chinese aren’t being cooperative on that whole monetary thing, human rights, trade, or global warming, but they DID let Imeme get a way cool pic on the Great Wall.  That spells success for the first Pacific President right there!  Especially if you understand, like David Axelrod, that the trip wasn’t really SUPPOSED to accomplish anything in the first place.

    / SARC

    In all seriousness, I don’t expect ANY president to come home from a foreign tour bearing a virtual goody bag full of things that other countries are going to do for us.  The Red Chinese are historically quite selfish and intractable, so expecting to get them to do much of anything is pretty unrealistic.  However, the point is that Imeme’s supporters seem to have had more (ahem) generous expectations from their messiah: they really seem to have thought (many apparently continue to believe) that he really would work his vaunted magic on the Asians and have the most successful tour an American president has had since Nixon went to China.  Now, they’re stuck trying to either claim phantom successes (like he MEANT to do that embarrassing bow to Akihito) or else blow the whole thing off like they got the big, steaming pile of ZIP that they expected.  News flash: even SNL is making fun of the trip.

    Not a good thing for Imeme.  Not a good thing at all.

  • … the public’s expectations had been “too high.”

    OK, let’s assume for a moment that Axel Foley never said that.
    Let’s assume that the public’s expectations had been “too low.”
    Where’s the beef ?

  • The really throw the kabash on the theory that failing President can do a road trip to raise their numbers.  Gallup has Obama at his lowest (so far).

  • It seems to me that in order to have a successful (however you define it) Presidential trip, most of the goals must have already been hashed out in advance during months of quiet low-mid level meetings. Once 99.9% of the negotiations have already been done, the top folks get together for some photo ops and seal the deal. Nixon did not just wake up one morning, call the AF1 crew and tell them to set sail for China. There were many months of secret negotiations that went on before he showed up.

  • I agree that these trips often lead to nothing – all the leaders are so buys flying around, toasting, photo-opping,  and speechifying that nothing can be accomplished. Plus they are governments which makes them slow anyways.
    Here’s the thing: we are in a major economic downturn. Some of the root causes of that downturn occur in Asia. Obama needed by like Reagan in Reyjavik and make a deal with China to get their currency to appreciate. (Maybe it was made, but cannot be publicized as to give China ‘face’ and not be seen as caving to US pressure…I am giving Oliver free talking points now.) Consider: Chinese factory sell us a TV. He takes the US dollar payment and has to convert it to RMB at the Chinese Central Bank. They take those dollars and lend them to the US. Instead of having normal trade, we have merchandise-financial trades. Additional supply of credit lowers the price of credit and encourages more borrowing in the USA than would occur without the somewhat artificial low price of credit. This is a very bad cycle to continue doing, and because China does this, all the other asian economies are forced to  mimic them to avoid having their exports hurt by Chinese competition.
    This is a very unhealthy system, and something has to give. The US consumer has already to a certain extent, but the currency issue remains.
    Next: WE ARE AT WAR AND AN ALLY JUST DROPPED OUT? Obama needed to force his  fellow lefties in Japan to re-commit. Why are we defending their oil routes and negotiating with North Korea if they are going to be able to pick and choose their support? (Caveat, if we are leaving Af/Pak, then it does not matter…)
    I do note that Yahoo News for the 10-12th time informs me that “Obama could make Afghan decision soon.” MSM loves this guy so much. If it were Bush it would be “90th day of indecision, 17th golf game without decision, whatever.”

  • The magazine may have been an Obama booster, but the writer doesn’t appear to have been. An excerpt from a Steingart article from 06/25/2009;

    “The occupant of the White House may have changed recently, but the amount of ill-advised idealogy coming from Washington has remained constrant. Obama’s list of economic errors is long–and continues to grow.”

    I don’t think the political position of Der Spiegel can be divined by an article written by one of its correspondents, just as the political position of the Washington Post can be divined by one article written by one of its correspondents.

  • Obama is already a “lame duck”

  • If the public’s expectations are too high, the obvious question is ‘Why are they too high?’.