Lost amidst the hoopla of the dramatic midterm elections and buried beneath speculations (often wild) about the cost of Barack Obama’s trip to Asia in their wake was the spectacle of Barack Obama, once thought to be the champion of the anti-Globalists and anti-free traders embracing that globalism loud and clear.
The old saying, “Always stare at a spectacle” went unheeded this time. "For America, this is a jobs strategy," he said, adding "There still exists a caricature of India as a land of call centers and back offices that cost American jobs. That's a real perception."
But Obama noted that the relationship between the countries is much more symbiotic, "creating jobs, growth, and higher living standards in both our countries. And that is the truth."
In the wake of the U.S. elections, which saw the Democrats lose control of the House and Obama's ability to connect with his country called into question, the president said one lesson learned was the need to set a better tone with business leaders. He was effusive on that front in Mumbai, gathering with top U.S. executives and studying up on their commerce with India.
"Just around this table you're seeing billions of dollars in orders from U.S. companies, tens of thousands of jobs being supported," he said. "We're a potential that has barely been scratched."
The White House arranged for four U.S. chief executives who are in India for the occasion to brief reporters traveling with the president. They seemed happy to play up the importance of India as a trading partner and praised Obama's decision to come to the country to underscore that point in person.
While noting that India’s infrastructure was an impediment to progress and urging that government to take on that issue, his larger message was one of the shared values and missions of the two largest democracies in the world.
In making that point, the President even generated a bit of laughter at his own expense, offering those in attendance a reminder of his political travails back home, "Our countries are blessed with the most effective form of government the world has ever known: democracy," he said. "Even if it can be slow at times. Even if it can be messy. Even if, sometimes, the election doesn't turn out as you'd like."
Many in India seemed more hopeful after the visit. One Indian executive, Onkar Kanwar, the chairman of India's largest tire manufacturer, Apollo Tyres, said he appreciated that the new President made it a point to visit India during his first term noting that, "Ties are getting closer and closer, which needs to be done....This demonstrates his commitment to another large democracy where he sees a lot of synergies," Kanwar said. "He's done all right."
It remains to be seen if the anti-globalist Left in America sees this kind of rhetoric as “doing all right.”