Columns, Opinion

PINION: Walking the talk

When President Barack Obama took office, he swore that America was a ‘friend to each nation . . .’ [that] seeks a future of peace and dignity.’ These were more than empty words (although he humorously included Russia in that list of nations), but now the question is who would want to be America’s friend.

The president spent last week traveling the world, extending the nervous hand of friendship to all the popular kids in school and telling them that their backpacks are really nice and that their moms must be cool to pick out such awesome stuff. But, dear readers, he has done more than just shake hands and say nice things – he’s taken to giving gifts! But much like the dollar-store candy your mom gives you to hand out on Valentine’s Day to help you make friends, even though you’re in fifth grade and boys don’t give out candy (especially not 10-month-old chocolate bunnies), Obama’s gifts have embarrassed the nation.

First there was the DVD ‘issue.’ After British Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave the leader of the free world a pen holder carved from the wood of a famous anti-slavery ship and a pricey first edition set of Martin Gilbert’s Churchill biography (upholding the grand diplomatic tradition of utterly useless yet impressive-sounding gifts), everybody’s favorite agent of change responded with a box set of 25 DVDs (including such luminaries as horror flick ‘Psycho’!). ‘How thoughtful of him,’ you might say (being an uncultured American). Well, keep in mind that the DVDs were encoded for American DVD players, so Brown has, thus far, missed out on that most famous of famous shower murder scenes – it’s a lot like that clock radio your batty aunt brought back from the United Kingdom to give you only to realize the plugs didn’t match.

Then, there was the Queen’s video iPod, prefilled with a selection of Broadway musicals (confirming conservatives’ worst fear: the president listens to musicals). Never mind that she already had one (the gift was American consumerism at its best), and that Obama has just set jolly old England’s monarch up to be sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for piracy – she didn’t buy those CDs! Unless someone in your family frequently foists stolen goods on you, I don’t think there’s a fitting real-life parallel for this faux pas.

More recently was a symbolic gift to Russia from Obama’s opponent-turned-lackey, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Apparently, the new American presidency subscribes to the Staples-Easy-Button school of diplomacy, as the gift was a big red ‘reset’ button meant to erase decades of simmering hatred and thinly veiled threats between America and the nation Gov. Sarah Palin spies on from her Alaskan home. Unfortunately for the United States, there apparently aren’t any English-Russian dictionaries in the country; the button actually read ‘overcharge,’ not ‘reset.’ Ever gracious, the Russian diplomat stashed the button away in his desk where it will presumably remain forever, like those hideous sweaters your grandmother gives you for Christmas.

However, it’s now become clear that the Obama administration’s generosity (curiously defined and poorly enacted as it was) had some strings attached.’ Having built up literally iotas of political capital and reaching the stage of diplomatic relations commonly known as ‘I’ll nod to you on the street, so long as I’m not with my other friends at the time,’ the president has now given his ultimatum, like a girlfriend who gives you a sweet video game and then demands you take her out to dinner before playing it.

Apparently, the commander in chief would like the world’s nations to give up their stockpiles of deadly, Earth-destroying nuclear weapons, setting the planet up for a future unmarred by warfare and bloodshed and freeing it from the looming threat of nuclear holocaust. I know; it’s pretty much insane. The girlfriend now wants dinner and a movie, does she?

Come now, Mr. Obama. Although your trinkets were very nice (the condescending, head-patting sort of nice, not the nice sort of nice), they are hardly grounds to ask countries like China, Russia and Israel to give up their ability to obliterate human civilization from the face of the world, plunging the planet into hundreds of years of irradiated, lifeless nuclear winter. Yes, your speech in Prague on Sunday was very nice with its calls for peace and understanding, but you’ve got to understand that other leaders are terribly attached to their nuclear missiles and hydrogen bombs! Why, just last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was photographed hugging a rocket called GreatStalin-A2 (it’s quite an old missile).

No, Mr. President, I wouldn’t ask for that sort of thing just yet.’ Start smaller – say, by holding a worldwide yard sale of only the red missiles, but ask too much for them so that no one buys them anyway – and work your way up. It’s the friendly thing to do!

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