Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saving the day...

Once again on issues of major import, it is hard to tell from the reporting exactly what has happened. This blogger is referring here to the recent Copenhagen imbroglio... Was the outcome a "... meaningful and unprecedented agreement..." (per President Obama); a "... historic failure that will live in infamy..." (Greenpeace activist); a "reset" and possibly "... the beginning of a game changer in how the world looks at ending carbon pollution..." (Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress); or just the "... end of a long day, start of a long road..." (350.0rg founder)? Reactions were definitely mixed across the entire spectrum.

A certain amount of "spinning" is also going on, after all this did include a large number of political leaders from around the globe. For the U.S., the links below give the transcript of a briefing given by a "senior administration official" to reporters on the flight back to the United States. Presumably this is supposed to give an account of how President Obama 'saved the day' at Copenhagen... This blogger does not find it persuasive, in fact it reveals an incredible level of incoherence. One would expect that the President's attendance at this gathering of world leaders would be well planned, but one apparently would be wrong. For example:
  • During the meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao the U.S. "... had given some transparency language to them..." to discuss. A follow-up question revealed that this was handed over at the meeting between Obama and Wen, a meeting at the end of the last day of the conference! Apparently the arrival of Secretary of State Clinton (also, incorrectly, portrayed as saving the day with her "$100 billion fund") did not result in any preparation for the President's arrival... it's not as if China's issues with "transparency" suddenly showed up when the President arrived!
  • OK, so the above is concerning but not a huge deal. However, as the narrative by the "senior administration official" goes on, it looks like the most powerful man on the planet flew all the way to Copenhagen for an issue that might concern the fate of the entire planet, and did this all by the seat of his pants. "The President also says to staff, we should meet in a group of three with Lula of Brazil, Singh of India, and Zuma of South Africa..." Unfortunately it looked like this meeting would not occur, because "... Brazil tells us that they don't know if they can come because they want the Indians to come..." and "... we were told Singh was at the airport..." So, if this narrative is true, does this mean that the President didn't have a meeting scheduled with these worthies, and that he suddenly got the bright idea that this might be a good idea? And it looked like it wasn't going to be possible because some of them were already leaving the conference?
  • Then, apparently, as they were going to the follow-up meeting with Wen they found him with the three (Brazil's Lula, India's Singh, and South Africa's Zuma)!! Hmm. so perhaps credit for saving the conference should go to Wen and not Obama, since according to the "senior administration official" it was Wen that managed to pull together the group after the U.S, had failed to do so!
OK, so this all sounds incredibly amateurish, even putting aside the insinuations that the others might have been engaged in some sort of secret meeting, that the "at the airport" story was possibly a ploy, etc. The entire narrative doesn't make much sense, from the small details (the seating) to the larger narrative (above). Even the silly "seating" story makes no sense! Although, supposedly, "... there aren't any seats, right, I mean, I think if you've seen some of the pictures, there were basically no chairs..." it turns out that "... the President says, "No, no, don't worry, I'm going to go sit by my friend Lula," and says, "Hey, Lula." Walks over, moves a chair, sits down next to Lula. The Secretary of State sits down next to him..." So, if no chairs where were they sitting? On the floor? That would make a good picture, the President and Secretary of State both sitting cross-legged on the floor!

This blogger is really not sure what to make of this entire narrative. Even if you believe every word, does the unnamed "senior administration official" somehow feel that this reflects positively on the President? Presumably the intent is to portray the President as having pulled a rabbit out of his hat; however, this blogger would argue that it is more evidence of ineptness than of brilliant maneuvering! And if it's not an exact rendering of what happened, why would they come up with such a silly story?

White House tells amazing inside story of how the Copenhagen Accord was reached
Inside details on Obama's climate change meeting with Wen, Lula, Singh and Zuma

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