I have not been paying close attention to the G-20 summit, but that doesn't really matter. In fact, skimming can sometimes be a great advantage in these affairs. Nothing that transpired at this most recent meeting of global leaders is likely to have any more impact on the world than the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. So, no harm in covering the event ET style.


The pictures are good. The camera loves our President. Michelle, evidently, is the new Jackie. They both exude confidence and style. Not since Reagan has an American president so graciously inhabited the role of leading man. At a glance, our tall, dark, and handsome president plays the part of Philosopher-King with great skill.

Gut Instinct: I like this guy (still). Seriously. I think he is smart and stylish, and, overall, at least in terms of symbolism, I think he did us proud on this trip (at least in the superficial sense that most people in the world now associate America with a cool and charismatic person of great charm and bearing).

On the other hand, there are some things I don't like. Some things that he has done over the past few months that worry me.

Little Things:

It bothers me that he gave the Queen of England an iPod made in China filled with his speeches and other frivolous material. Is he trying to be disrespectful--or does he just not know the difference?

He is cool and confident--but sometimes he is too cool and overbearing. In that vein, I am uneasy when he makes fun of Nancy Reagan, Jessica Simpson, or the Special Olympics.

For the Record: the "Special Olympics" comment was unfortunate and, worse, "unpresidential," but it would be hypocritical to get too exercised over a cruel joke. Perhaps it is a generational thing--but my guess is that most readers my age have engaged in similarly tasteless humor. Of course, now that I think about it, I have not tossed around Special Olympics as a "goof" for at least twenty-five years. But, still, give the guy a break. And, please, conservative talkers, enough with the sanctimonious condemnations.

But the tendency to say something cruel for a laugh speaks to a certain cold-bloodedness. The pattern speaks to a certain harshness. Frankly, it belies a certain lack of empathy (and to say it publicly speaks to his sense of invincibility--which is also troublesome). It all bothers me a bit. Of course, Ronald Reagan's purported inability to be an engaged father to his children bothers me to this day. Martin Luther King's infidelity makes me wince. I like my heroes flawlesss--but, alas, they are all human. And not every imperfection necessarily corresponds to a tragic malformation of character.

Perhaps more substantially, I am annoyed by the President's tendency to conflate our economic problems for political expediency. I know this Ivy Leaguer understands that the recession, the banking crisis, and our long-term structurally unsustainable national debt are three distinct obstacles posing extremely divergent threats to our existence. But he happily fuses them together regularly to beat up on opponents and rally support among the less discerning.

That bothers me.

And, it goes without saying, there is the BIG THING:

It worries me that this President favors a complete restructuring of American political culture in the mold of a modern European welfare state. That bothers me.

But other than those kinds of quibbles, I still like him.