President Obama, in his first major economic summit, did remarkably well at the recent G20 conference in London. His honesty, humility, and clear grasp of the situation at hand were well received by the leaders of the 20 nations in attendance. His knack for consensus-building and his powers of persuasion were in strong evidence. To get European countries like France and Germany to agree to pool into a massive $1.2 trillion global New Deal-type effort to stave off a world depression was no minor accomplishment. For France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Prime Minister Angela Merkel were both expressing major reservations to this approach at the conference's outset. Indeed, Sarkozy even threatened to go home early if he perceived it to be a fruitless gathering.
Many of the participants were publicly and correctly blaming the United States and its disastrous Republican-sponsored economic policies of the Bush years for the current crisis: deregulation and mammoth overspeculation. Obama honestly acknowledged our contribution to the problem but deftly shifted the focus from blame on America to a common and united effort to stimulate economic recovery throughout the world by channeling more resources into the International Monetary Fund and increasing developmental funding in individual countries.
Such true consensus-building is becoming a hallmark of Obama's leadership style. Even his ability to mediate was evident early on. When Chinese President Hu Jintao and French President Sarkozy got into a heated exchange over tax havens which could have torn the conference apart, Obama took direct action in speaking individually with both leaders and then eventually pulling them together for a successful compromise. With his direct leadership and one-man-among-peers demeanor, Obama has restored America's credibility in economic and foreign affairs and has successfully demonstrated that his will be no Bushian "my way or the highway" approach to governance and diplomacy. Such a change is a very welcome breath of fresh air for foreign leaders and was thus received extraordinarily well.
These displays of global cooperation and response to reason are very encouraging. But consensus can only be achieved in an atmosphere of honesty and desire for universal benefit. I contrast President Obama's success in consensus-building abroad with the difficulties he has had here at home with the opposition Republican Party. Such figures as John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, Mark Sanford, and Michael Steele all pale in comparison with the vision, grasp, and pragmatism shown by Obama, the UK's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, France's Sarkozy, and all the rest of the G20 attendees. Because the forementioned Republicans are so petty and of limited vision explains why they are becoming increasingly irrelevant and are in a shrinking and uninfluential minority status. My advice to them: start going along, or get out of the way of progress! Standing alone as a stupidly immobuile, stubborn, and uncooperative band of nay-sayers clinging onto the past is accomplishing nothing.
President Obama did an outstanding job at the G20 conference. He rekindled the world's belief in and love for America on many levels. We were undeniably well-served by him the past few days, and we were, and continue to be, definitely getting our money's worth!