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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 02/01/2012

Davos forum: a truly motley crowd


There was snowshoeing for the younger folks, spectacular skiing for all, free booze and wine each night courtesy of mega-corporations such as Google, McKinsey, KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst and Young and, perhaps the biggest hit, you could try driving an Audi on a sheet of ice and snow.

And there were the Occupy people and those three topless Ukrainian feminists arrested Saturday for trying to scale the wall of the world’s most prestigious gathering of the important and the self-important, the bloviators and the deep thinkers.

Welcome to the 2012 World Economic Forum, in the ultra tony ski resort of Davos, Switzerland, home last week to some 2,600 world leaders, corporate titans, royalty and media folk plus thousands of staff and security.

Picture some think-tank gathering, say the Aspen Institute, on steroids. This isn’t one percenters. This is the one-ten-thousandth of one percenters.

Britain’s David Cameron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, our pal Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia and the former Muslim Brotherhood member now Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh all made the scene, in addition to journalist Chelsea Clinton of the Clinton Foundation and “Sir Mick Jagger, artist.”

The endless gabfests — if you actually attended them — pondered wither this economic trend, wither that societal trend, wither new media, wither whatever. (Wouldn’t do for the world leaders to be taken by surprise, would it?)

A decidedly international affair but, in keeping with the U.S. position as the world’s largest economy, a group of lawmakers went over to be on a two-hour panel discussion called: “The New American Identity — A Political Perspective.”

The delegation included: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), GOP Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), David T. Dreier (Calif.), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.) and Darrell Issa (Calif.), and Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.).

Two Democratic governors, John Hickenlooper (Colo.) and Dannel Malloy (Conn.) also made the trip.

Now, before you start thinking five days in the Swiss Alps isn’t worth it, Issa, who has declined in the past but finally decided to go, says there are benefits.

“I think we really need to be there,” he told our colleague Ed O’Keefe. “We need to look and say, ‘How do they [the international folks] view Greece, Italy, Portugal? How do they view us?’ ” The Davos gathering “gets you 1,000 of the premier thinkers all in one place.”

Administration officials echoed that view. The administration contingent included: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (who went via military jet), U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, undersecretary of State Robert Hormats, Treasury Undersecretary Lael Brainard, Food and Drug Commissioner Peggy Hamburg, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah and deputy National Security Council adviser for international economic affairs Mike Froman.

Some officials (such as Kirk, Hamburg and Leibowitz) were spotted in steerage, others may have moved up to business.

Well, where else can you watch Ehud Barak on the Reuters ski trip, working his way down the slopes?

By and  |  07:00 AM ET, 02/01/2012

Tags:  Davos, Tim Giethner

 
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