Friday, November 5, 2010

Fly Away, Fly Away...

By his own admission President Obama and the Democratic Party took a shellacking last Tuesday and after a drab press conference on Wednesday in which he admitted the election was a drubbing, what is he going to do?  Will he huddle with party leaders and regroup, retool, rethink, replan, restrategize and make a few phone calls?  No way.  He’s off to Asia for ten days.  At least now we know what he was doing in September and October.  Like all image-conscious icons, he was probably planning his wardrobe. 
Yes, this trip has been scheduled for a long time, but what rotten staff work.  Even if the Democrats had won big, there would have been a need for him to stick around to do some planning and building, at least until he had to leave for the G-20 meeting.  Unfortunately, this poor timing points, once again, to what we have written about before, viz. he has poor staff work, no wise counselor, and has not yet mastered Leadership 101.   
As for the upcoming trip, it has been ballyhooed as a working business trip to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.  The trip is supposed to be about “creating U.S. jobs.”  Obama has invited a slew of American business leaders to accompany him.  Who and how many they are we do not know.  However, the rightwing politicos and the wingnut media have gone crazy about the trip, imagining that it’s going to cost $200 million dollars a day and close to $2 billion dollars for the entire trip.  Where do they get those ideas?  By the time that Obama left the country on Friday, those wild stories had begun to die down, but the bad taste remains.
This is the President’s itinerary:  [Here]
Friday, Nov. 5 — Obama leaves Washington.
Saturday, Nov. 6 — Arrives Mumbai, India; holds meetings with business leaders, others.
Sunday, Nov. 7 — Travels to New Delhi.
Monday, Nov. 8 — Meetings with Indian government officials in New Delhi.
Tuesday, Nov. 9 — Travels to Jakarta, Indonesia.
Wednesday, Nov. 10 — Speech in Indonesia; travels to Seoul, South Korea.
Thursday, Nov. 11 — In Seoul, speaks to U.S. troops for Veterans Day; Opening ceremonies for Group of 20 economic summit.
Friday, Nov. 12 — G20 working sessions, news conference; Departs Seoul for Yokohama, Japan.
Saturday, Nov. 13 — Attends meetings for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama, Japan.
Sunday, Nov. 14 — Visits Great Buddha statue before departing Japan and returning to Washington.
Yes, Nov. 6th-Nov. 14th is a long time to be away after what just happened on last Tuesday’s Election Day.
And what is this trip about?  The NYTimes’s Caucus Blog reported that Obama said this to his cabinet on Thursday:  [Here]
The primary purpose [of the Asian trip] is to take a bunch of U.S. companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States of America...My hope is, is that we’ve got some specific announcements that show the connection between what we’re doing overseas and what happens here at home when it comes to job growth and economic growth.
Who are those business leaders that will be filling the hotels in India that we’ve heard so much screaming about today?  I have seen no list, but I promise that I’ll keep looking.  
Ford, the only large American auto company who did not receive a government bail-out, has spoken out about unfair trade barriers with South Korea and will certainly want to have a voice in trade discussions with that country.  The company points out [Here] that for every 52 cars that S. Korea ships here, the U.S. sells only one in S. Korea.  The reason is not complicated tariffs, but rather other very clever barriers, such as S. Korea auditing the tax returns of foreign car buyers or restrictions on the hours that foreign car makers may advertise and so on.  Clever, eh?
I have no idea if any of the above will be on the table when Obama gets to Seoul or if anyone from Ford will be in his entourage, but these are the nitty gritty issues that prevent free trade and we should be as clever as South Koreans in such discussions, shouldn’t we?
We must also be on guard to see how much of Milton Friedman’s neoliberalism slides into Obama’s economic agenda. 
More on this tomorrow...  

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