Among leaders at summit, Hu's first
After all the chatter about nukes, loose and otherwise, 36 heads of state are heading home from Washington to tout their world leadership chops and their influence with the Obama administration.
The winners at this week's nuclear summit were easily identified: They were the ones who got bilats with President Obama -- not a bodybuilding term, it stands for bilateral, or one-on-one, chat -- showing their prestige and importance. Chinese President Hu Jintao obviously heads the list, having chatted with Obama for 90 minutes. (And what is with this bowing business? [See photo below.] Okay, so Obama's a natural bower. And Hu owns the U.S. economy. But really.)
The other winners include King Abdullah II of Jordan, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine and President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia, all of whom got a private meet, as did acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, here because the elected president is gravely ill, who got a meeting with Obama on Sunday.
Included in the winner group is Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt, who is not really a world leader but only a foreign minister.
By far the biggest loser of the extravaganza was the hapless and (in the opinion of some Obama administration officials) increasingly loopy Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. He reportedly requested but got no bilat. The only consolation prize was that he got an "unofficial" meeting during Monday night's working dinner. Maybe somewhere between the main course and dessert?
A rich man's son, Hatoyama has impressed Obama administration officials with his unreliability on a major issue dividing Japan and the United States: the future of a Marine Corps air station in Okinawa. Hatoyama promised Obama twice that he'd solve the issue. According to a long-standing agreement with Japan, the Futenma air base is supposed to be moved to an isolated part of Okinawa. (It now sits in the middle of a city of more than 80,000.)
But Hatoyama's party, the Democratic Party of Japan, said it wanted to reexamine the agreement and to propose a different plan. It is supposed to do that by May. So far, nothing has come in over the transom. Uh, Yukio, you're supposed to be an ally, remember? Saved you countless billions with that expensive U.S. nuclear umbrella? Still buy Toyotas and such?
Meanwhile, who did give Hatoyama some love at the nuclear summit? Hu did. Yes, China's president met privately with the Japanese prime minister on Monday.
The last great open embassy job -- we're speaking here of the exquisite ambassadorial residence in beautiful Prague -- goes to Obama's law school pal, mega-bundler and White House ethics czar Norm Eisen. Eisen is a Washington lawyer and founder of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Eisen, whose parents were Holocaust survivors -- his mother came from Czechoslovakia and his father from Poland -- was part of the group that accompanied Obama to Prague on Thursday for the signing of a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The next day, Obama met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, and the Czech media reported that Washington had "officially proposed its new ambassador to the Czech Republic," naming Eisen as the pick.
The embassy has been leaderless for the last 15 months because the first pick, former Broadcasting Board of Governors chairman Marc Nathanson, apparently ran into some vetting difficulties. Vetting is overseen by the White House counsel's office, where Eisen is counsel for ethics. Unclear who's going to vet Eisen's nomination.