An American in London


Some on the right can be counted on to rush to superficial and overheated labeling. That often works for the right.

So they cry out that President Obama is leading the country into European-styled socialism. They say he's even making us like the dreaded French.

It becomes important, then, for the less incendiary and more moderate Americans, meaning most of us, to understand what happened last week in London.

In his inaugural international summit with allies, Obama held his ground for American independence and American ideals against an initiative for global consolidation led by none other than French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

That is to say Obama acted as a fairly traditional American president.

But it's not to suggest that all the differences of opinion, real but largely glossed over, fit nicely into time-honored pigeonholes. The world is entirely too much a mess for that. Things get nuanced anymore, which is to say confused.

For example, Obama wanted European nations to infuse their economies with more spending in the form of additional stimulus packages.

But German chancellor Angela Merkel was allied with Sarkozy in saying their nations had spent enough for now and had to be more responsible about passing massive debt to future generations.

Let me run that one by you again: Your socialist democratic European countries were telling an American that a line must be drawn on government spending.

But lest you think Sarkozy was behaving as something of an American Republican, be advised of what he considered a better idea than stimulus pending by his nation. It was to establish real and binding global governance of financial markets. Those would include our financial markets.

He meant an international authority that would regulate hedge funds and tax havens wherever they were, even, that is to say, inside the United States of America.

That's not going to fly here in the old U. S. of A.

We agree that we let our innovative financial enterprises get out of hand. But we will do our own job of keeping that from happening again, thank you, without answering to any new big boss from Paris or Brussels.

There is a compromise presenting itself for what is a legitimate and even essential problem. Billions move across vast oceans in the blink of a eye. As we have seen all too painfully, this is a world in which a bad actor on one side of the water can cause equal or greater problems on the other.

The compromise is for the various independent national regulators to do better jobs individually inside their own borders, then form some sort of compact. This would not be a compact by which they would presume to regulate each other's companies or on each other's soil. But it would be one by which they would communicate and cooperate, alerting each other to problems and endeavoring to solve them jointly and agreeably.

Obama was in a bit of a spot. He had to acknowledge that the global economic meltdown started in the United States, which is to say it was caused by the United States. But he had to stand up for the nation as well.

He gave a candid warning: As a result of what's happened, America seems likely to change fundamentally some of its economic ways. He said the rest of the world is going to have to wean itself from dependence on American's "voracious" consumption habits.

In other words, you guys are going to have spend your own money.

This wasn't any ugly American in London. But he was an all-American American. He was a touch like George W. Bush, actually, though with better articulation and less swagger. And that was about right for this occasion.

 

John Brummett, an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, is author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

 

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