The new Obama style: cozy up to world leaders
More confident and experienced after 18 months in office, Obama shows a welcomed personal touch with leaders, such as those of Israel, Russia, and China.
Barack Obama is well known for big speeches, not small talk. But in recent weeks, the president has turned on the charm with world leaders, trying to create warm personal ties for the cold purposes of furthering American interests.Skip to next paragraph
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The latest example was his cozy hosting of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to the White House. Only a few months ago, the two men were stern and steely toward each other, a result of policy differences and what appeared to be an Israeli slap at Vice President Joe Biden in March. But during a recent White House visit, Mr. Netanyahu was showered with praise. Mr. Obama referred to their “excellent one-on-one.”
Perhaps the president now believes that a bit of honey in his communications with Israeli leaders – as well as with many other foreign officials – will achieve more than the vinegar of criticism.
Obama’s same glad-hand approach was on display last month with Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev. The two lawyerly leaders, who have already met often, went out for burgers at an American diner, chatting it up like two regular guys. No doubt their newfound trust in each other helped quickly resolve the touchy issue of Russian spies being caught in the United States. The later swap of spies-for-spies on a Vienna airport tarmac did, in fact, go rather smoothly.
Obama has also tried to bridge a big communication gap with China’s leader, Hu Jintao – not an easy task for any foreign leader. At the recent Group of 20 meeting in Canada, the two men worked on their relationship as much as they did on issues. The result? An invitation for a state visit to the White House – a sign of closer ties and only the third state visit hosted by Obama.