Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My advice for the president at G20

President Obama heads to the G20 summit today, a move that is being looked upon with great anticipation by everybody, particularly the staff of Air Force One. After all, the guy has never been on the plane for this long. I know I get cranky when I fly internationally.

This marks the president’s first chance to hobnob with other world leaders, most of whom he has never met. So far his only “foreign” trip has been to Canada and that doesn’t really count. Most Americans who go to Canada these days are just trying to get out of Detroit any way they can.

Some critics fear that, because of the president’s popularity, any serious financial discussions will turn into “The Barack Obama show.” I disagree only because I think the world economy has gotten past the point of “serious financial discussion.” That ended the moment CEOs from the Big Three automakers admitted they flew to Washington on corporate jets. Now discussing the world’s economic situation usually begins and ends with giggles.

That aside, I think the G20 will be a chance for Obama to score some serious points on the world stage. For one thing, he’s a tall guy which will make him look powerful in group photo ops. Any time I see photos of world leaders standing together, I always think the tall ones command the most respect. President Bush was tall and he looked extremely powerful standing next to his shorter European counterparts. Of course that perception ended the instant he opened his mouth.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t stand a chance at the G20. From what I’ve seen, she looks to be about 4’9” in heels. She’s liable to be mistaken as a member of the catering staff.

Besides Merkel, leaders from the following countries will be attending: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic. The last time these leaders were in the same room was the day Michael Phelps swam for his eighth gold medal and they all managed to score tickets.

The “who’s who” of world leaders gives Obama a great chance to get to know everybody in a very short time. Obama, we all know, is a skilled communicator and conversationalist. We know that from watching his recent appearances on 60 Minutes, The Tonight Show, ESPN, The Bachelor, Survivor, Extreme White House Makeover and “I’m the President! Get Me Out of Here!” But in case he gets tongue tied, I have compiled a list of “ice breaker” questions and opening lines when he approaches each head of state during a meeting, in line at the bar, the bathroom or wherever. Here you go, Mr. President. Don’t forget, jokes work too!

Gordon Brown, UK - “If all the Beatles were still alive, do you think they would have played at my inauguration?”

Dr. Manmohan Singh, India - “Do you see the day when residents of your country will call residents of my country to get their computers fixed?”

Angela Merkel, Germany - “Germans really seem to enjoy beer. Are you currently drunk?”

Kevin Rudd , Australia - “I don’t have to ask. I KNOW you’re drunk.”

Taro Aso, Japan - “Please let me know when the new Wii comes out. Sasha and Malia have been asking.”

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil - “If it comes down to Chicago vs. Rio de Janiero for the 2016 Olympics, let’s settle it with a game of H-O-R-S-E.”

Hu Jiutao, China - “If the United States borrows one billion dollars from your country, will we feel broke again in 20 minutes?”

Kgalema Motlanthe, South Africa – “I’m half black and half white. I’ll bet that freaks out people in your country.”

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia - “We’re at about $2.13 a gallon. What are you paying?”

Roh Moo Hyun, South Korea – “Is there a television show in your country called Seoul Train?”

Romano Prodi, Italy – “Any idea when the Pope might be visiting the White House? I’ll need to make sure the Rev. Jeremiah Wright doesn’t pick the same weekend.”

Nicolas Sarkozy, France – “Think Lance Armstrong stands a chance this year?”

Felipe Calderon, Mexico – “We will send federal troops to help eradicate your country of drugs. If that doesn’t work, we’ll send college students.”

Dimitry Medvedev, Russia - “Seriously, what did you do with Gorbachev?”

Abdullah Gul, Turkey – “Tell me again why you’re here?”

Mirek Topolanek, Czech Republic - “What do you call it when two Czechoslovakian families get together? Czechs Mix!”

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia – “Did you notice that Topolanek guy has no sense of humor?”

Stephen Harper, Canada – “We’ve already met. Catch you later.”

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