Friday, April 3, 2009

Speed Diplomacy

President Obama joined the rest of the gaggle of world leaders for the Group of 20 economic summit yesterday.

Prior to the official start of the summit today, President Obama made the rounds and used the day for separate meetings with many of the participants of the G-20 leaders, as well as official visits with the Prime Minister at Number 10 and the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The evening national television news programs boiled the day down into a rapid montage of scenes, in a very American view of President Obama as a global leader exercising diplomacy. Here was President Obama with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and wait! He is now outside of Number 10 with both Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Obama standing with them.

Click! Now the President is sitting and chatting with President Hu Jintao of China. Click! Now the President is chatting amiably with Russian President Dimitri Medvedev. Click! Now the President is in a very serious discussion with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and suddenly there was the President and Mrs. Obama standing with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in Buckingham palace.

Like speed dating, the television coverage made the pre-summit day seem like a race around the roster of which delegation was in London early. In reality, this is a traditional use of a summit and opportunities for the President to discuss a host of issues of interest between the delegations.

Unfortunately, diplomacy makes for bad TV but like speed dating, America had the opportunity to quickly see the President representing the US in his first overseas trip. While there was more coverage of the potential of conflict in the G-20 summit and possible outcomes, the flash of images of the President was certainly a good thing for President Obama.

While coverage overall was very brief, the television news outlets were able to switch over into more important topics – the I-POD gift given by the President to Queen Elizabeth, and protestors clashing with police.

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