"That’s my man right here," President Obama said this morning at the G-20 summit as Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva approached him. "Love this guy. He’s the most popular politican on earth. It’s because of his good looks."
Lula, it should be noted, is hardly the George Clooney of the G-20. But beyond that, the moment was quite telling in terms of the understanding that these leaders have for one another’s domestic political considerations.
A few days ago, Lula said that the global economic crisis "was fostered and boosted by irrational behaviour of people that are white, blue-eyed, that before the crisis looked like they knew everything about economics."
‘Now they have demonstrated that they don’t know anything about economics," said Lula, adding that "no black man or woman, no indigenous person, no poor person" can be held responsible.
Administration sources say that one of the interesting dynamics playing out here is the rhetoric of these G-20 leaders versus the reality of what they and their representatives are saying behind the scenes.
"I was in Brazil last week," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday, "and I think President Lula will forgive me for saying this — he said to me, ‘When I was leader of the trade unions, I blamed the government; when I became leader of the opposition, I blamed the government; when I became the government, I blamed Europe and America.’ And he recognizes, as we do, that this is a global problem."
President Obama alluded to this as well when asked about the rhetoric coming from the leaders of France and Germany against his push for more global stimulus.
"There have been differences in terms of how should that stimulus be shaped. There have been arguments, for example, among some European countries that because they have more of a social safety net, that some of the countercyclical measures that we took — for example, unemployment insurance — were less necessary for them to take," the president said. "But the truth is,…that’s just arguing at the margins. The core notion that government has to take some steps to deal with a contracting global marketplace and that we should be promoting growth, that’s not in dispute."
The President said, "I know that when you’ve got a bunch of heads of state talking, it’s not visually that interesting…the communiqués are written in sort of dry language, and so there’s a great desire to inject some conflict and some drama into the occasion. But the truth of the matter is, is that I think there has been an extraordinary convergence and I’m absolutely confident that the United States, as — as a peer of these other countries, will help to lead us through this very difficult time."