The grand nuclear summit in Washington is over, and two results are noteworthy — not more.
One: As Dana Milbank at the Washington Post writes this morning, the president succeeded in angering both the Washington and international press corps: ”World leaders arriving in Washington for President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit must have felt for a moment that they had instead been transported to Soviet-era Moscow.” Almost none of the summit was open to the press. Milbank continues:
In the middle of it all was Obama — occupant of an office once informally known as leader of the free world — putting on a clinic for some of the world’s greatest dictators in how to circumvent a free press.
The only part of the summit, other than a post-meeting news conference, that was visible to the public was Obama’s eight-minute opening statement, which ended with the words: “I’m going to ask that we take a few moments to allow the press to exit before our first session.”
Get this, from Milbank: “Obama’s official schedule for Tuesday would have pleased China’s Central Committee. Excerpts: ‘The President will attend the Heads of Delegation working lunch. This lunch is closed press. . . . The President will meet with Prime Minster Erdogan of Turkey. This meeting is closed press. . . . The President will attend Plenary Session II of the Nuclear Security Summit. This session is closed press.’”
The press is, or was, what you would have called Obama’s “base.” The summit was so empty of anything real, other than, literally, photo-ops, he clearly didn’t want much of it covered.
As for the second accomplishment — clarity. Would China back sanctions against Iran? That was the subtext of the last three or four days; Iran was not officially an issue for the summit, but China was here. Yesterday the press was reporting China was on board, as they were fed that line from the administration. Those of us who voiced skepticism about this story were right. Today, in the clear of the summit’s peak, we read from Reuters this headline: ”Energy Ties Grow As China Resists Iran Sanctions.”
Indeed, President Obama said yesterday: ”With respect to sanctions, I think that we have a strong number of countries on the Security Council who believe this is the right thing to do. But I think these negotiations can be difficult.” That’s not any kind of serious claim. And then other press reports today: “A day after the White House announced President Hu agreed to cooperate with the drafting of sanctions against Iran, it was clear China had not made a total commitment to squeezing Tehran.”
And if you want to know how badly our foreign muscle has weakened, this story in the Brazilian press this morning informs you: “Brazil has joined forces with Turkey in opposition to sanctions against Iran.”
So, in sum: We had a summit that accomplished nothing except a) angering the American and international press corps, b) closing down Washington for two days, and c) misleading everyone for 24 hours that China and others were on board with something to help stop Iran when that just wasn’t true. This just isn’t serious foreign or defense policy. In fact, it’s a dangerous, even Neronian policy — except it won’t be Rome that will burn.