A Little Light Reading

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, 12 January 2016.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci/Pool)

A’ight, that’s it.

More constructively, Josh Lederman and Kathleen Hennessey of Associated Press have filed a story that counts well among the things that make you go, Hmm....

President Barack Obama called off a planned meeting Tuesday with new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, seeking distance from a U.S. ally’s leader during a diplomatic tour that’s put Obama in close quarters with a cast of contentious world figures.

It’s unusual for one president to tell another what to say or not say, and much rarer to call the other a “son of a bitch.” Duterte managed to do both just before flying to Laos for a regional summit, warning Obama not to challenge him over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

That would be part one, but the original URL for the story is a serial number and the phrase “obama-putin-agree-continue-seeking-deal-syria”. The first ten paragraphs go to the “bizarre rift” Rodrigo Duterte has apparently invoked ‘twixt himself and Barack Obama.

Part two gives three paragraphs to the American president’s landing in Hangzhou this week and some slapstick with a staircase. Part three is a transitional paragraph mentioning Obama’s visit to Laos.

The fourteenth paragraph continues the transition―

And sitting down with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama made no mention in public of the roughly 35,000 people Erdogan’s government detained following the summer’s failed coup in Turkey. Instead, he worked to reassure the NATO ally the U.S. would help bring to justice whoever was responsible for plotting the coup.

―before the narrative finally spends two paragraphs on Putin―

Obama also spent about 90 minutes Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, another leader whose fate seems intertwined with Obama’s in all the wrong ways. On opposing sides of many global issues, the U.S. and Russia are nonetheless trying to broker a deal to address the Syrian civil war and perhaps even partner militarily there.

“President Putin’s less colorful,” Obama said, comparing him with Duterte. “But typically the tone of our meetings is candid, blunt, businesslike.”

―and then closes with four more paragraphs about Rodrigo Duterte.

The thing is that there is a lot going on in that article. How many really would have guessed there was that much going on this week that didn’t have to do with Donald Trump being horrifying, why we should all be even more horrified by Hillary Clinton, the tragedy of Congressional Republicans, or, I don’t know, the baseball playoff outlook? Lederman and Hennessey are fine journalists, but there seems a sennet-jalope feel about this tale of statecraft that reminds not every presidential peril is best portrayed in a perfunctory patois of paranoiac poppycock.

Yeah, that was too much effort for a sentence that starts with Keystone Cops and manages to lose its way; still, that’s the thing. Compared to the bullshit we hear from Congress and cable news, there must be times amid the chaos when President Obama can just chuckle to himself and admit he loves this fucking job.


Lederman, Josh and Kathleen Hennessey. “Obama cancels meeting with new Philippine president”. The Big Story. 5 September 2016.

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