Obama As Poker Player: He Really Does Have A ‘Tell’

The United States, obviously, has a special role to play on the international stage, regardless of who is president,” Mr. Obama said. “We are a very large, very wealthy, very powerful country. We have had outsized influence over world affairs for a century now. And you are now seeing a situation in which a whole host of other countries are doing very well and coming into their own, and naturally they are going to be more assertive in terms of their interests and ideas. And that’s a healthy thing.

Obama on getting stiffed at the G20. He lacks Clinton’s gift for often inspired parsing. Rather than embed meaning within meaning, Obama’s efforts actually draw attention. Note the past tense passive construct ‘We have had outsized influence’ stands out. No different than the WH’s correction of Axelrod’s cave on the Bush tax cuts. The WH quickly instructed him and others to claim he was misunderstood. Obama, they claim, is true to principle. Just that principle (ahem) is opposition to *permanently* extending Bush’s plutocratic wealth transfer subsidy. Don’t forget the military’s leaking that Obama’s hard deadline of 2011 Afghan draw down is now floated as December 31, 2014 (for now).

And that’s just in the last week.

Now put yourself in Beijing’s place. Or any G-20 leader sitting at the plenary session. Imagine your briefing on Obama before you arrived in Korea. You, like many leaders from Japan, Germany, China, Korea, etc. built your wealth and social stability on merchantilist predation on U.S. consumers and debt. And here comes yet another American president complaining that his country is tired of being a consumption and debt junkie. ‘Beijing has to stop manipulating its currency boosting its smack’, etc.

Next Media’s Animation on U.S.-China Currency Debate

Stronger men than Obama have gone to the pusher man. Most successfully Baker’s coup de main in 1985’s Plaza Accords. But then Baker knows how to play poker. His velvet hammer commanded respect.

Obama’s not that guy. Your briefing as a G-20 leader explains America’s too strung out now to handle the merchantilist product for much longer. The Fed QE easing/asset purchase doesn’t really threaten American inflating their way out of addicition. It’s more of an accounting measure for banks to re-configure their existing portfolios. But no American really understands that, especially CNBC reporters. So, your briefers advise, a few PR releases denouncing the move are meaningless but knock the young American off stride.

It’s all so inconvenient. You’ve been so focused on perfecting your labs and recruiting your mules like WalMart getting tastes of your junk into the American ‘tragedy of the commons’. You’re not used to thinking about responsibility, creating stable win-win international systems. Yours is the zero-sum game of wealth accumulation. Now you’ve got to think about what you need from a post-American debt junkie world.

The American junkie was convenient for everyone. Still no need to act precipitously; America is so hollowed out now all they export really is tweets. Don’t risk siding with Obama now against the Yuan, your briefers caution. The future is in flux. He can’t stand up to Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Boehner, etc. Besides, he always screws his allies and flatters his foes. The guy just admitted U.S. diminishment in Asia, after all, where ‘face’ is all. And worse, it’s clear the Americans don’t have a plan for methadone/detox other than more speeches about ‘Green jobs’ or – wait for it – more tax cuts!!

Why not kick the can down a road? Milk the junkie. And see what happens. With Obama it’s obvious the deal always gets better by waiting him out. He’ll probably even end up calling his own initial position ‘outsized’, to boot.