First, let’s hear from the usual suspects. The Wall Street Journal looks at Barack Obama’s performance at the G-20 summit as well as his trip to Seoul and pronounces it the worst ever for an American President. The editors are disgusted by the performance, but in the end say failure was the right outcome:
Has there ever been a major economic summit where a U.S. President and his Treasury Secretary were as thoroughly rebuffed as they were at this week’s G-20 meeting in Seoul? We can’t think of one. President Obama failed to achieve any of his main goals while getting pounded by other world leaders for failing U.S. policies and lagging growth.
The root of this embarrassment is political and intellectual: Rather than leading the world from a position of strength, Mr. Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came to Seoul blaming the rest of the world for U.S. economic weakness. America’s problem, in their view, is the export and exchange rate policies of the Germans, Chinese or Brazilians. And the U.S. solution is to have the Fed print enough money to devalue the dollar so America can grow by stealing demand from the rest of the world. …
The world also rejected Mr. Geithner’s high-profile call for a 4% limit on a nation’s trade surplus or deficit, which would amount to new political controls on trade and capital flows. This contradicts at least three decades of U.S. policy advice against national barriers to the flow of money and goods. We don’t like to see U.S. Treasury Secretaries so completely shot down by the rest of the world, except when they are so clearly misguided.
But this is the Wall Street Journal, Obama’s defenders will say. The capitalists at the WSJ don’t like Obama anyway. Well, that’s certainly true, as the Journal has provided one of the few substantial media platforms that has bothered to look critically at Obama’s performance rather than his public-relations profile. But how about looking 3,000 miles west to San Francisco, the heart of Nancy Pelosi-style progressivism, to see how his G-20 performance looked from that perspective? Interestingly, it looks as though Obama has truly delivered consensus when one reads the San Francisco Chronicle editorial from yesterday’s edition:
Shellacked at home, shellacked abroad. President Obama’s Asia trip is extending a losing streak with the latest setback – a refusal by other major financial powers to follow his lead to revive the global economy.
The president’s nostrums, which began with a call for stimulus-style pump priming by other nations, had evolved into a plan to ease wild swings in currency values and overboard trade imbalances. But he got next to nothing in showdown meetings with other leaders of the G-20 nations, or major economic powers. U.S. leadership, once taken for granted, has all but vanished, and no one’s in charge.
Of course, as the Chronicle notes later in the article, Obama could hardly be said to be providing a lead to follow. He arrived at the G-20, fresh from his rebuff from Seoul over a trade agreement that George Bush had wrapped in a tidy bow three years ago and Democrats rejected, insisting that the industrialized nations refrain from currency manipulations — while defending the second round of quantitative easing that the Fed introduced to do just that. Obama learned the hard way that few people will follow a “Do as I say, not as I do” model of leadership, and may end up touching off a currency war as a result.
In 2008, we warned about the dangers of putting a man in the White House with no executive, military, diplomatic, or private-sector experience. It should shock no one to find that American leadership has utterly vanished on the international stage when we elect someone incapable of providing that leadership. The lesson from both the Right and Left coasts’ media is that Barack Obama is in way over his head and doesn’t have a clue how to get back to the surface.
Update: West, not east, to Frisco, obviously.