YWN readers already know what Obama wrote on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his new memoir A promised land, but what was his impression of other world leaders?
His impressions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has served as President or Prime Minister of Russia since 1999, are not surprising: physically he was unremarkable: a short, compact wrestler with fine, sandy hair, a prominent, pale nose. . , watchful eyes, ”Obama wrote. “I noticed a flippancy in his movements, a practiced disinterest in his voice that indicated a person used to being surrounded by subordinates and supplicants.
Obama said Putin reminded him of some of the political figures of Chicago, where he started his political career. “He was like a chef de quartier, except with nuclear weapons and a veto in the UN Security Council.”
Obama’s impressions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seem to be corroborated by recent events. “Personally, I have found [Erdogan] be cordial and generally responsive to my requests. But every time I listened to him speak, his tall, slightly hunched figure, his voice a powerful staccato that rose an octave in response to various grievances or perceived slights, I had the strong impression that his commitment to democracy and the rule of law could only last as long as he preserved his own power.
Obama’s comments on former French President Nicolas Sarkozy are more personal than political, but certainly testify to his strong literary descriptive talent. With his dark and expressive features vaguely Mediterranean (he was half Hungarian and a quarter of a Greek Jew) and short (he was about five feet five meters tall but wore shoes to make himself taller), he looked like a figure outside from a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec.
Conversations with Sarkozy were by turns fun and infuriating, his hands in perpetual motion, his chest thrust out like a bantam rooster, his personal translator still beside him to frantically mirror his every gesture and intonation as the conversation went on. from flattery to swagger to genuine insight. , never straying from his barely disguised main interest, which had to be the center of the action and take credit for everything worth recognizing. Obama added that he found Sarkozy amusing and appreciated his “daring, charm and manic energy.”
Finally, Obama’s comments on former Chinese President Hu Jintao are testament to the patience world leaders often need in their meetings with other world leaders of diverse cultures. Whatever the topic, he enjoyed reading from thick piles of prepared remarks, stopping every now and then for English translations that seemed to have been prepared in advance and, in some way or a other, always lasted longer than his original statement, I was tempted more than once to suggest that we could save time by simply exchanging papers and reading them as we please.
Obama added that his attempts to lighten the mood during his long meetings with Jintao usually resulted in a “blank stare.”
(YWN Israel Desk Jerusalem)
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