David Frum

06.20.12

Interpreting Obama's G20 Presser

The president's press conference at the G20 meeting may not have made news, but it still communicated 3 interesting things:

1) Things are bad back there in the G20 Euro-rescue back room. The president's message of non-specific optimism - his "fundamentals are sound" message about Europe's people and businesses - his repeated reassurance that all parties do genuinely wish to see a positive outcome - these are the things presidents say only when there is nothing substantively positive to offer.

2) The Spanish bank rescue is not going well. It was not even 10 days ago that the EU struck a deal to provide 100 billion Euros to Spain's stressed banks. That deal sparked, oh, about 10 minutes of market euphoria. Now, however, President Obama is warning of a lack of "clarity" about how and when Spain will draw on the 100 billion Euros. You'd imagine that was the kind of detail that would have been agreed before the money was made available. Apparently not.

3) The president agrees with Martin Wolf more than Paul Krugman about Euro rescue. In his list of measures that ought to be considered, the president emphasized Eurozone-wide deposit insurance, as often recommended by the FT's Martin Wolf, but not a big fiscal expansion program in Germany, as passionately urged by Krugman. Maybe the president is merely recognizing the limits of the possible, but in return he can expect some disobliging comments on the Times oped page in the next days.