Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Juan Cole on Barack and Michelle's Excellent Adventure

President Obama's recent trip to Europe, Turkey and Iraq was a fairly bland freshman outing in foreign affairs, notable for the enormous good will it generated toward the U.S., along with some practical achievements and a few minor errors. It lacked the drama of the untested young Kennedy grappling over Berlin with the wily old Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961. On the American right, however, Obama's trip produced a hysteria not seen since radio listeners mistook Orson Welles's 1938 radio production about an invasion from Mars for the real thing, and crowded the highways, heads wrapped in wet towels, to escape the poisonous miasma of the onrushing aliens. The weeping and trembling of Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh and William Kristol underlined once again that the right-wingers are playground crybabies who kick and scream and faint whenever they do not get their way.

The outrage began when Obama greeted Saudi King Abdullah by leaning into a double-handed handshake. Sean Hannity at Fox Cable News sputtered, "We got this video of Barack Obama bowing to the Saudi King Abdullah. Now look, watch how low he gets. Way below the shoulder." Camille Paglia denounced from her own little papier-mâché Mount Olympus "the jaw-dropping spectacle of a president of the United States bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia." The critics missed the point; far from being obsequious, Obama's double-barreled handshake violated the protocol for greeting royals. When singer Kylie Minogue similarly clutched Prince Charles' hand, the London tabloid press noted it as a faux pas that only a celebrity could get away with. But in any case surely George W. Bush's sycophantic cheek-kissing and hand-holding of Abdullah was far more offensive to the political right? Apparently not. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., called the greeting "shameful." She also darkly warned, "We're still finding out what happened during that G20 summit. I think that there may have been agreements made behind closed doors that we aren't even aware of, that could be ceding American sovereignty."

He's just getting warmed up.

H/T John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, Version 2.0
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1 comment:

John Brown said...

Thank you for your kind comments re the "Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review."

FYI, have been working on a piece on the importance of playfulness in public diplomacy -- needless to say, this side of PD has not been a priority of the USG for the past eight years ...