Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough--"

"To Keep Obama Away From A Summit." Summits actually used to mean something. Since The One assumed office, there has been The Beer Summit (see photo for future beer summits),the Financial Responsibility Summit, The Growing American Jobs Summit, the Olympics Summit, the Health Care Summit, the Summit of the Americas, the NATO Summit, the G-8 Summit, the G-20 Summit, the Jobs Summit (this Thursday), and let's not forget the upcoming Copenhagen Global Warming Summit. I'm sure I've missed a few, but you get the idea.

Summits used to be meetings of great import between heads of major states attempting to work out solutions to problems which had worldwide significance. Some succeeded, some failed. The original summit was held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1955, thus the nickname "summit," as in "high in the Alps." President Eisenhower joined Soviet Premier Bulganin, British Prime Minister Eden, and French Premier Faure (Nikita Khruscheve attended, but as an observer). There were many such meetings prior to 1955 (think Yalta, Teheran and Bretton Woods), but the Geneva meeting gave the events a catchy nickname that everyone could remember.

The meaning of "summit meeting" has fallen in significance somewhat over the years, but the master of "change we can believe in" has finally demeaned the word into nothingness. Summits are now Barack Obama photo ops which occasionally put his mug on TV and in the news when he gets tired of making near-daily announcements on socialized medicine or breathless news conferences about race relations. Summits now often include only one important figure, Obama, who is actually the most important figure in the known universe. Instead of meetings between heads of state regarding world affairs, most summits are now comprised of robotic lectures from the sage of Harvard, followed by the raucous cheers of a roomful of carefully-selected Obama supporters.

Summits usually brought results. Camp David brought at least a temporary lull to the Arab-Israeli wars. Another summit produced a nuclear arms limitation agreement between the two superpowers. And then there was the 1960 summit at which Eisenhower and Khruschev hurled insults at each other, but teaching America that overflights of the Soviet Union to gain intelligence would no longer work. Perhaps the most enjoyable (and least productive) was the Hyde Park Summit when Bill Clinton played host to a very tipsy Boris Yeltsin.

But when "summits" are nothing more than balm for the biggest ego in America, they cease to be meaningful, and ordinary people have trouble distinguishing a summit which decides how much over the speed limit the Obama girls will be allowed to drive from a summit averting a worldwide conflagration, it's probably time to drop the word "summit" entirely in the context of important meetings.

Today, "summit" means talk, talk, talk, with no resolution and a pretty confusing agenda. The summits generally involve Obama talking, and talking, and talking, then pretending to care what anybody else had to say, followed by Obama saying how interesting the whole thing was, and that he will be giving it serious thought. Cue cameras. As The New Republic says about Tuesday's jobs summit: "So gabbing about jobs, and projecting the message that you do indeed want to create some--particularly to your harsher critics on the left, like Krugman and Stiglitz--is the best Obama can hope for."

And they go on to say: "The summit has replaced the vaunted bipartisan commission as the ultimate empty gesture. Where a President once kicked a nettlesome political problem down the road by assembling a panel of bipartisan worthies to produce a report on entitlement reform, say, or how we made the mistake of thinking Saddam had WMDs, Obama now holds a confab to jawbone the problem to death. Even better, unlike with a bipartisan commission, with a summit, there's no final report to have to contend with."

Jason Zengerle entitled his article: "So Much Gasbaggery, So Little Time--Why Obama is Obsessed with summits." I think he's on to something.

20 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

modern summit seems to equal photo-op. I am a fan of our Summit here in Knoxville (Pat that is.)

AndrewPrice said...

Obama does love the grand, empty gesture.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: It would be a lot cheaper and a lot less likely to cause international problems if Obama would just go to a photo studio on a daily basis, have his picture taken in front of different scenic vistas, then go back to the White House and leave the business of government to the less pretty adults.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: That's because he has a grand, empty head.

BevfromNYC said...

As my piano teacher used to tell me "If everything is important, then nothing is important".

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--Maybe he could take the whole thing to Broadway. Lots of "meaningful" songs, plenty of exotic dancers. And an audience that doesn't mistake the whole thing for serious diplomacy. Build the whole show around Obama, and call it "The New Miracle Worker."

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: It's amazing how a simple aphorism can sum up a big idea, isn't it? And if everyone's a winner, noboby's a winner.

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: That's perfect. His intro could be "I'm not really a president, but I play one on Broadway." Babs Streisand could adapt some of the songs she sang to Nick Arnstein in "Funny Girl." And well worth the price of admission if it keeps him in New York and away from DC.

CalFederalist said...

So when is The One going to hold his Gay Summit? San Francisco and West Hollywood can fight over which one gets to have the event. Obama can make a speech about how he opposes gay marriage because he supports it, and everybody can go home scratching their heads at what the hell that meant. He could even have Adam Lambert put on a show first.

LawHawkSF said...

CalFed: Gee, Obama and a summit. That's worth fighting to get. If they really wanted to make it interesting, they could hold the event in Bay View (an actual "summit") which is a nearly all-black area which doesn't take well to gay folks. After all, a summit is supposed to resolve issues between opposing parties, isn't it? Then the following week he could hold the "Illegal weapons and murder summit" in the Castro District. Of course, there would be fewer people in attendance than at the prior summit.

BevfromNYC said...

Or he can do it like the ministers in Nepal did and hold a summit on Mount Everest! He could survey all that he desires.

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/297646,nepal-ministers-gather-at-everest-base-camp-for-climate-meeting.html

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: And he could take Al Gore with him, on the promise they'll both stay there until the glaciers melt from global warming. Of course, they aren't melting, and the lakes are freezing earlier and deeper, so they might not be back for awhile. Wouldn't that be a shame?

BevfromNYC said...

Sadly Climate Al had to cancel his appearance in Copenhagen at the Climate Summit because of a "scheduling conflict". He probably just forgot to write down a doctor's appointment or something. I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with all that Climate-gate brouhaha...

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: But the good news for the econuts is that there's now room for three more delegates.

StanH said...

In Barry’s feeble mind, to talk is to do. For him the Summit is a continuation of the college debate society, where he can use his professorial prose, to change minds, and influence enemies. But, unlike college what this clown does, has deadly ramifications for us all. IMO, it’s a diversion so we pay attention to Barry while czars are busy screwing the country. We must contain this jerk in 2010.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: I hadn't thought of it that way exactly. He stays busy yapping while the czars continue to undermine everything that is traditional in American government. Classic misdirection.

AndrewPrice said...

You know what we need Lawhawk? We need a summit czar!

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: All right, Price, you've gone one czar too far!

ArmChairGeneral said...

Can we make the summit czar Rush Limbaugh and allow him to 'manage' Obama's summits. For instance let's send him to all the Shriner's clubs in the South East and then allow him to speak at all the retirement homes before going to the Amvets and telling them why the hell he has the audacity to apologize for our country. That I'd pay to see. Summit czar Rush Limbaugh, it has a ring to it.

LawHawkSF said...

ArmChair: And let's not forget the convalescent hospitals which are getting paid largely out of the medicare funds that will be taken away so the young punks who don't want medical care get it anyway.

Unfortunately, I think the more likely summit czar would be Oprah Winfrey or Dan Rather.

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