Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President John Nance Garner famously described the job of American Vice President as “not worth a pitcher of warm spit.” Sadly, that pretty much describes the value of John Key’s meeting earlier this morning with the American Vice President, particularly when that Vice President is Boofhead Biden.
As a meeting it would be as much use, and with as much chance of success, as trying to persuade Sione Lauaki not to pinch your beer.
Key’s real whistle-stop is his lunch with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. It would be nice to think that John Key explained David Ricardo’s Principle of Comparative Advantage to Mr Vilsack, demonstrating that both US and NZ consumers—and consumers all around the Pacific Rim—would be better off with freer trade through the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. This presumes, of course, that Mr Key understands that principle himself.
Whether or not that conversation happened, Mr Vilsack will undoubtedly be telling Mr Key that whatever the multiple benefits of free trade, inefficient American farmers can’t afford to allow our cheaper and better produce to appear in American shopping trolleys, and the frank truth is that American senators can’t afford not to have the donations of these inefficient farmers. He’ll be told quite bluntly, I suspect, that Mr Vilsack and his colleagues would rather please one inefficient American producer (who, to a Senator, is known as a donor), than please several million hard-pressed American consumers (who, to a Senator, are known as prize saps).
So let’s not get too excited about today’s meetings. These are politicians we’re talking about, not high achievers.
And speaking of high expectations, that pretty much explains Obama’s much-touted nuclear summit—not so much a “beer summit” as one that will have the all-encompassing reek of patchouli, a miasma strong enough to obscure (for a while at least) several hard truths about it that will probably not make the summit communiqués.
Such as the fact that the nuclear genie is long out of the bottle, and no amount of hand-wringing is going to put it back again. (You can wish upon a star all you like, but unless you confront that basic fact you have dreams that will never come true.)
Such as the deal OBambi just signed agreeing that Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev may essentially do whatever they like with 34 tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. (Burn it in a breeder reactor. Bury it out back. Play pinochle with it. Whatever.)
Or the deal that India signed with the US to re-process spent US fuel into weapons-grade plutonium (encouraging erstwhile US ally Pakistan to seek some similar favour from China).
Or the fact that the two who at present loom largest in the world’s ‘most-likely-to-push-the-button’ contest (not to mention their high-ranking in the most-likely-to-give-fissile-material-to-terrorists stakes), North Korea and Iran will both be conspicuous by their absence—conspicuous, at least, to anyone who doesn’t take the communiqués of non-proliferation summits seriously. And, if we might continue being blunt, even if they were there they would hardly be taking the proceedings any more seriously than France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, who was quoted after leaving the White House recently as calling OBambi “insane,” and “appalled” at Obama’s “vision” of what the World should be under his “guidance” and “amazed” at the American Presidents unwillingness to listen to either “reason” or “logic.”
So we might say in summary of the summit that rather than making the world a safer place, by encouraging those who do constitute genuine threats it’s likely to leave the world less safe. Suggesting the only communiqué that might make sense would be this:
"With all of the preparations and posturing, with all of the media coverage, citizens of the world live in quiet hope that the proliferation of non-proliferation summits has peaked and that time and money can be redirected to more obtainable goals such as a Mars landing."
Everything else is just smile-and-wave.