It’s too early to tell whether President Barack Obama’s new approach to China will be more successful than his predecessor’s. But this week’s high-level dialogue in Washington underlined how the balance of power is shifting.
Tales from the Trail
Almost two million people have inexplicably disappeared from the estimates of the U.S. Muslim population that President Barack Obama has given recently. In his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, he spoke about "nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today." On Sunday, the Karachi daily Dawn published an interview with him where he said "we have five million Muslims."
DRESDEN, Germany – Were you under the impression that relations between the United States and Germany have been a bit frosty since President Barack Obama took office?
That Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t trust Obama because he went to Germany during his election campaign and cozied up to her opposition?
Or that Obama was offended by her refusal to let him deliver his big Berlin speech last year at the Brandenburg Gate, so he returned the snub by refusing to go to Berlin on this trip?
Well pish, posh. You’ve clearly been reading wildly speculative media reports.
“They are very wild and based on no facts,” Obama told a news conference Friday standing next to Merkel.
“The truth of the matter … is that the relationship, not only between our two countries but our two governments, is outstanding,” he added.
And Merkel’s assessment? Working with Obama is fun, in an analytical sort of way.
“Allow me, if I may, to … say that it’s fun to work together with the American president because very serious, very thorough analytical discussions very often lead us to draw the same conclusions,” she said.
Since they get along so well, why did Obama not travel to Berlin on this visit?
Simple matter of logistics. He was going to Dresden, going to Buchenwald, traveling to a U.S. air base and had to be in Normandy the following day for D-Day celebrations.
“There are only 24 hours in the day. And so there’s nothing to any of that speculation beyond us just trying to fit in what we could do on such a short trip. That’s all that there was,” Obama said.
A day after he spoke boldly to the Muslim world in a speech from Cairo, the U.S. president found himself boldly speaking again — this time to journalist speculators.
“So stop it. All of you,” he said, drawing titters from the assembled reporters. “I know you have to find something to report on, but we have more than enough problems out there without manufacturing problems.”
Speaking of those problems, what about those Guantanamo prisoners Germany had said it would take?
“Chancellor Merkel has been very open to discussions with us,” Obama said. “We have not asked her for hard commitments, and she has not given us any hard commitments beyond having a serious discussion about are there ways that we can solve this problem.”
Washington submitted a formal request in early May for Germany to take some Guantanamo prisoners.
“There are talks going on,” Merkel told the news conference, “and at the very end I am absolutely confident that we will find a common solution.”
For more Reuters political news click here.
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Merkel listens to Obama during news conference; Merkel, Obama tour Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) in Dresden)
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama told an audience at the U.S. mission to the United Nations that she was “thrilled” to be back in New York for the first time since her husband Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. president in January. But she said some things are even more exciting than addressing an audience of 150 U.S. diplomats, military advisers and other government officials.
Be careful this week about buying wholeheartedy into any G20-related spin about supposedly savvy, free-spending Britain and America doing more to combat the world economic crisis than supposedly stubborn, overly cautious Germany and France. The actual figures show it is much more complex than that.
OTTAWA – As if he were out on the campaign trail again, Barack Obama gave a special thanks on Thursday to people who helped him win the 2008 U.S. presidential election — in Canada.
The president, on a visit to the United States’ northern neighbor, ended a news conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper by thanking Canadians who came across the border to volunteer for his campaign.
“I want to also, by the way, thank some of the Canadians who came over the border to campaign for me,” he said, to laughter. “It was much appreciated.”
After the news conference, the president made a campaign-style trip to a local market where he shook hands with excited shoppers and looked for souvenirs for his daughters.
But Obama, whose whole trip lasted just several hours, did slip up a bit — campaign style — at the beginning of his remarks.
When saying it was good to be in Ottawa, he stumbled briefly, and started to say “Iowa.”
The United States has decided to participate in planning meetings for the United Nations Conference on Racism in April in order to influence its final declaration. The conference, a follow-up to the 2001 meeting in South Africa that the U.S. and Israel walked out on because the draft declaration called Israel racist (that language was later dropped). Israel and Canada have already announced they would boycott "Durban II," as the conference is being called, and the Bush administration was opposed to the conference. But the Obama administration has decided to wade into the debate in the hopes of getting a better result.
Is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Jakarta a hint that President Barack Obama will pick Indonesia as the first Muslim country he visits in his drive to improve U.S. relations with the Islamic world? There were lots of other suggestions when he first mentioned this back in December, including Egypt (the New York Times pick) and Morocco (judging by what might have been a write-in campaign on our comments page).