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Lebron James, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping

We asked WaPo reporter Joel Achenbach to write us a week in review with his reflections about the past seven days in the world -- and Washington. He agreed. 

I’m on a plane to Houston and want to comply with my promise to Chris to write something retrospective about the week in Washington, but I spent much of it in a mental fog, dopey on cold medicine, and focused primarily on finding someone to whom I could whine and complain about the historic tragedy of my cold. I’m not a big believer in suffering. Every day should be sunshine and a volleyball game. Thus when stricken with even a slight tickle in the throat, or a little stuffiness, I endure not only the physical symptoms of the illness but the existential horror of not being 100 percent. A double-whammy.


What LeBron can teach President Obama. ADAM HUNGER/REUTERS

Even without this physical handicap -- even were I laser-sharp in my role of sage and beloved oracle (or perhaps I should use the less pretentious term “public intellectual”) -- I’m not sure I’d be capable of delivering any insight about the week, other than noting that when everything was on the line in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron stepped up and the Heat beat the Pacers to make the Finals again.

So last night Spurs stole a game in Miami. This is going to be a great series. But don’t you think LeBron will find a way? Because he has become someone who can live up to his hype.

Which President Obama should think about when he meets his counterpart from China, Xi Jinping (deft transition to political substance!), today.

Game time, baby. What looks good on paper doesn’t matter. You have to perform, in sports and in politics and in every other walk of life. Ask the Washington Nationals. They are supposed to be World Series champions come October, but they continue to be a team with the striking characteristic of scoring fewer runs than their opponents. They squeaked out their first (!) come-from-behind late-game victory earlier this week, only to go paws up the next night and lose by 9 to the mediocre Mets.

Obama should tell Xi that China can’t be a rising economic superpower without helping out a bit more with hideous problems like Syria and Iran and North Korea. Step up! Game time!

Oh, and Obama should say, Stop with the hacking! If the American people are going to have their secrets pilfered, then by gosh the American government can handle that job all by itself.

This morning I am still trying to grasp the dimensions of the domestic spying phenomenon reported in today’s paper. It’s unbelievable. They have access to our chats?? Our texts??

And did I read correctly that Congress required Verizon to turn over records of ALL domestic phone calls? Even the ones I make to my brother, the Achenbro, that typically last one minute and invariably discuss the fortunes of the fabled Gators of Hogtown, and usually but not always discuss the pot of beans he made last night?

Imagine if you had to listen to everyone’s phone calls, or read everyone’s texts, across the planet. Think of the vapidity. You know most people are not having a conversation like Sartre and his pals at the Cafe Odeon or the Deux Magots or wherever it was they were hanging out on the Left Bank. Face it: Most of us have the kind of conversations that fish would have if they could talk.

You know the Information Age is really the Connectivity Age. I must have 300 interactions a day, counting emails, texts, phone calls, and the times I mumble to myself. Raise your hand if, sometime in the last year, you were out in nature, in some beautiful, serene, exquisite location, and you pulled out your smart phone to scroll through your email. Everyone. And you get mad if there’s no service. I guarantee you that in recent weeks during climbing season on Everest there were people laboring up the Hillary Step who were suddenly annoyed that they lost service. If we lose connectivity we vanish. It’s the opposite of solipsism. Only by being connected to everyone else in the world constantly do we have any sense of self.

But back to Game Time: The WSJ got sniffy about Obama appointing Samantha Power to the U.N. job, quoting something she wrote in The New Republic a decade ago saying that the U.S. needs to own up to various sins and crimes and bad behavior over the years in dealing with the rest of the world. But I don’t care what she wrote in The New Republic 10 years ago. That’s a long time ago, and it’s also The New Republic. What matters is how she performs in the job. She might get to the U.N. and feel not at all apologetic. She might find a whole new swagger, and start talking about how we kicked some major butt and saved the West in World War II. As for the Susan Rice appointment, that was pure genius: She doesn’t require Senate confirmation, and Obama can now say, honestly, that he didn’t leave a body on the battlefield after the political fallout from the Benghazi talking points controversy.

And then there’s Obama himself. A question I pose, without inflection or any attempt to suggest an answer, is this: Has he measured up to his promise?

Your mileage may vary on that, obviously. But when you are president, it is always game time. You have to perform. There are no excuses. Ask LeBron.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."

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