He’s like Moses coming down off Mt. Sinai with the two tablets. Except, instead of the Ten Commandments, on each one it says, “If you like your plan, you can keep you plan.”
President Obama used the electronic speech-displaying device Monday to deliver his 30-minute address to Indian lawmakers in the historic Central Hall of parliament, the same place where Britain relinquished power to a newly independent India in 1947. It was the first time a teleprompter had been used inside the chamber.
“It looks like a podium”, said one mystified lawmaker. “Where do they place the paper?” asked another.
In India, politicians generally speak extemporaneously or from notes or text written on paper. The common perception, explained lawmaker Sanjay Nirupam of Mumbai, is that the really good speakers don’t need to have text in front of them.
Regardless, lawmakers in the packed hall listened to Obama’s speech in mesmerized silence, punctuated by frequent applause.
One MP was so amazed, he removed a gold-and-pearl necklace he was wearing and offered it to Obama. And The One took it! If I recall correctly, the last time he had something tossed at him following an address was when Chris Matthews threw his underwear on stage after that big race speech in Philly a few years ago.
Here he is today before parliament calling for India to be given a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. I support him fully on the idea: It’s insane that the world’s biggest democracy doesn’t have a place at the table while a second-tier power like France does, and doubly so given that “the eastern world” is represented by autocracies in Russia and China. Two potential problems, though. First, if/when India is added, Pakistan’s going to demand some sort of permanent Muslim representation on the Council too. Presumably that would mean Indonesia as the world’s most populous majority-Muslim state, but who knows where UN insanity might lead once we’re adding members. If Middle Eastern Muslim states demand a seat too, the options range from bad (Jordan) to terrible (Saudi Arabia) to horrible (Iran). Second, rather than keep the number of permanent members at five and replace, say, France with India, no doubt all five current members will retain their seats and new nations will simply be added. The more that are added, the more difficult Security Council action will be; remember that any permanent member can torpedo a UNSC measure by vetoing it. Either the veto process will have to be reformed too or else it’s a recipe for eternal gridlock going forward, which may be a good thing in the long run insofar as it’ll undercut the UN’s legitimacy but promises to be fun for malefactors in the short run as the Security Council tries to deal with paralysis. Oh well.