Global Leaders Are Still Dithering on Syria and the Eurozone

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Obama's G20 press conference offered little substance on the two crises facing the world.

obamaputin_bnr.jpgReuters

Yesterday evening on MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews speculated before the start of an announced press conference in Los Cabos, Mexico that President Obama had an extensive slate of topics he could delve into and move his political ball forward.

There was rampant speculation that a deal of some sort had been cobbled together with Russia and other countries on a new game plan for dealing with violence in Syria.  Others thought that the President would announce that European nations had finally agreed to measures that would end the Eurozone crisis. Some thought that the beleaguered nuclear talks that European High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton had been suffering through with Iran might have moved in a positive direction.  Chris Matthews said that Obama is the first incumbent President of the United States who by executive order is ceasing deportations of young illegal residents, a hugely controversial political topic, might expand on that political chess move.

Instead, the President offered no real new news on any of these subjects.  I was waiting in the wings to possibly discuss Obama's comments on MSNBC, but there was so little there that the networks I was checking in on -- CNN, Fox, and MSNBC -- rapidly shut down discussion of the President's G20 remarks.

Obama wasted the time of those watching this presser with soporific comments about his believe that Europe's leaders were committing to do the things that needed to be done to "restore confidence, stability, and economic growth" in Europe.  He said that Europe's leaders knew they needed to move "urgently", taking "all necessary measures" to stabilize the economic situation -- referring specifically to commitments to get healthier "feedback loops between sovereigns and banks".  He said that Europe's leaders were producing deals on new banking supervision rules, resolution structures, and deposit insurance.

Bottom line is that Obama applauded Europe for doing nothing.  Obama was not able to say that Europe had finally come to terms with the fact that it needed some form of de facto Europe-spanning Ministry of Finance to synthesize divergent economic realities and political structures inside Europe -- nor had come to a deal where the surplus countries inside Europe (i.e., Germany) were going to essentially set up a structure that would take responsibility for managing the debt load of major Eurozone deficit countries. 

What Obama said that Europe's leaders had agreed to are provisions that don't get ahead of the financial crisis at all.  They probably deepen the crisis in my view.  Confidence will continue to deteriorate.

On Syria, Obama said that Bashar al-Assad had lost his legitimacy as a leader -- but that China and Russia were not with the US in agreeing on what need to be done.  Obama offered no new proposals on what the West might do to either pressure Assad to leave, or plans on how to end the violence.

Here is a transcript of the session.  The Washington Post's Gene Robinson got it right away -- stating on MSNBC that there was no new news at all in the press conference.  Nothing.

On Twitter, I posted this quick review of the session:

Steve Clemons @SCClemons
Hmmm No Drama Obama was NO NEWS #Obama tonight on Syria and Euro Crisis. One of Obama's worst press conferences in terms of substance

My tweet drew this response from an insider national security policy observer who is good to follow

NatSecWonk @NatSecWonk
Have you considered the possibility that he did NOT want to make news tonight #Obama

I really hadn't thought about the idea that Obama would have a press conference to say  nothing of depth about the pressing issues facing the country -- or would choose not to revealing more about his decision on illegal immigrants or other matters.

I was where Chris Matthews was, excited about the possibility of Obama delivering new deals or ideas that the world would react to.

But confirming @NatSecWonk's suspicions, I called the White House press office before the press conference asking for someone to give me a bit of preparatory guidance on what the President would be getting into -- and was told that all of the key press and communications folks had "gone home for the day."

Should have gotten the message then.

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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