Obama may have hoped that a trip abroad would distract from the US election results and give him give him a PR boost. Mission Unaccomplished: the Times takes us from setback to setback:
SEOUL, South Korea — President Obama’s hopes of emerging from his Asia trip with the twin victories of a free trade agreement with South Korea and a unified approach to spurring economic growth around the world ran into resistance on all fronts on Thursday, putting Mr. Obama at odds with his key allies and largest trading partners.
The most concrete trophy expected to emerge from the trip eluded his grasp: a long-delayed free trade agreement with South Korea, first negotiated by the Bush administration and then reopened by Mr. Obama, to have greater protections for American workers.
And as officials frenetically tried to paper over differences among the Group of 20 members with a vaguely worded communiqué to be issued Friday, there was no way to avoid discussion of the fundamental differences of economic strategy. After five largely harmonious meetings in the past two years to deal with the most severe downturn since the Depression, major disputes broke out between Washington and China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.
Each rejected core elements of Mr. Obama’s strategy of stimulating growth before focusing on deficit reduction. Several major nations continued to accuse the Federal Reserve of deliberately devaluing the dollar last week in an effort to put the costs of America’s competitive troubles on trading partners, rather than taking politically tough measures to rein in spending at home.
I was recently regaled at a cocktail party by some liberal deadender who explained that, regardess of any other complaints about Obama, he at least had restored American stature abroad. Hmm.
Let's cut to the trade deal:
The White House decided it was smarter for Mr. Obama to return home with no free trade accord than with one in which it could be accused of making concessions at a time that the consensus on trade has been shattered, particularly within the Democratic Party.
The President can not lead his own party. Apparently South Korea is too green for the UAW - their version of our CAFE standards tilts too heavily towards smaller cars rather than big old American muscle trucks.
We also learn that Obama is unlikely to pick up another Nobel, for economics:
Mr. Obama’s meeting with China’s president, Hu Jintao, appeared to do little to break down Chinese resistance to accepting even nonbinding numerical targets for limiting China’s trade surplus. While Lael Brainard, the under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs, said that the United States and China “have gotten to a good place” on rebalancing their trade, Chinese officials later archly reminded the Americans that as the issuers of the dollar, the main global reserve currency, they should consider the interests of the “global economy” as well as their own “national circumstances.”
The disputes were not limited to America’s foreign partners. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner got into a trans-Pacific argument with one of his former mentors, Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, after Mr. Greenspan wrote that the United States was “pursuing a policy of currency weakening.” Mr. Geithner shot back on CNBC that while he had “enormous respect” for Mr. Greenspan, “that’s not an accurate description of either the Fed’s policies or our policies.” He added, “We will never seek to weaken our currency as a tool to gain competitive advantage or grow the economy.”
Much of the rest of the world seemed to share Mr. Greenspan’s assessment. Moreover, Mr. Obama seemed to be losing the broader debate over austerity. The president has insisted that at a moment of weak private demand, the best way to spur economic growth is to have the government prime the pump with cheap credit and government stimulus programs. He quickly found himself in an argument with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
The Time continued to shovel dirt on Obama the next day with this:
Traveling in Asia, Obama’s Glow Dims
Every translator has taken a stab at "in over his head".
IT'S ON TO THE NEXT TRIUMPH! Obama explains his latest successes:
Setbacks aside, Obama claims stronger global hand
YOKOHAMA, Japan – President Barack Obama claimed a stronger hand on the world stage Friday despite electoral defeats at home, failure to get a free-trade agreement with South Korea and lackluster international support for his get-tough policy with China on trade and currency disputes.
A few more strong hands like this and we will be out of chips.