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The Obama message disappoints at Davos

Posted by: Diane Brady on January 29, 2009

Valerie Jarrett, a top aide to Barack Obama, told delegates at the World Economic Forum on Thursday that the new U.S. Administration is committed to taking “aggressive and extraordinary action” to revive the U.S. economy. While Jarrett spoke about Obama’s desire to take a more coordinated global approach on issues such as climate change, her short speech disappointed a number of participants for its sweeping rhetoric and lack of specificity.

“Terribly boring,” said one European CEO, who compared her remarks to a “U.S. campaign speech”. Added another executive: “I’m trying to think of a single thing in there that I didn’t already know.” Jarrett’s rhetoric was especially unsatisfying for those who had listened to the assertive and more detail-oriented comments of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and Russia’s Vladimir Putin a day earlier.

One issue, perhaps, is that global leaders are already acutely aware of both Obama’s message and his background. And yet Jarrett spent much of her time talking about Chicago and quoting from Obama’s Inaugural Address. We did learn that Obama met Wednesday with companies such as IBM, Xerox, Citibank and Google. But what they talked about, other than broad support for a recovery plan, was left unsaid.

Jarrett, of course, has the unenviable position of representing a man who is days into his new job. For business and political leaders who are looking to the U.S. for answers to the current crisis, though, it was a strangely flat response. It makes you wish all the more for a transcript of the animated conversation that one participant saw Putin and former president Bill Clinton have on Wednesday night.

Reader Comments

You disgust me ...

January 29, 2009 12:31 PM

Ha! ... the CEO's are disappointed? Well we are disgusted from your lack vision most CEO's demostrated lately. And what does everbody think Obama has in hand ... a magic wand!. These CEO's should look into the mess they cooked up and bring to table solution. Rather than complain.

Rhetoric does not translate

January 29, 2009 12:55 PM

Ha! the joke is on you for thinking there is more to the Obama administration than the shallow rhetoric of the campaign. That's all there was to begin with and it's not that much different than the Blago administration and a host of nutty mayorial administrations around many American cities. It is from another plant and it does not translate in Davos or anywhere else outside of Chicago special interest groups using other peoples money.


January 29, 2009 12:56 PM

The sense I get in speaking to several folks after the meeting is that they expected a higher level of discussion. Quoting from the inaugural address was particularly grating to some Europeans.


January 29, 2009 1:06 PM

This is a sad day when leaders from China and Russia make more sense with plain talking than the Obama administration. They are going to have a field day with us from this day forward. I'll bet the Putin School of Govt (former KGB crowd) is rethinking what more they can get away with and so are a host of others in the EU, Middle East, and China. Now I know why they were so in love with the prospect of Obama winning--they win and we lose in geopolitics.

Krishnan Hariharan

January 30, 2009 5:35 AM

Socrates had earlier cautioned one and all about great speakers. It is advisable that businessmen swim the Obama wave with utmost discretion. Businesses are more trustworthy, target oriented, scientific, truthful and rewarding to the common man like me than emotion stirring politicians.


January 30, 2009 9:23 AM

It's lucky that Valerie can speak at all.
USA is unspeakable and unrespresentable at the moment, that's why Obama is not there for all his sunshine outlook. The bearer of world's currency standard is having a hard time explaining itself for all these bad behaviours. I guess Bush doesn't realized what the US dollar ment when you use it to go to war, while your citzens run amok in one financial scandals after another, and knowing full well what Fannie holds in the accounting book. Stern parenting govts like China and Russia hold on to their purse, "a penny earned is a penny saved".


January 31, 2009 10:03 PM

B. Hussein Obama and Co. know nothing about economics. All they know is socialism and marxism. No wonder the CEOs were disappointed.

Obama is becoming a nobody quickly...the real world leaders seem to be coming from Russia and China.


February 1, 2009 12:42 PM

The terse words of Jarett is a disrespect for this group of people. And this disrespect is DESERVED by this people. This is a new era of FAIR trades and deals with the world. Goodbye with this greedy bankers, currency manipulators and soon extinct cartel.


February 1, 2009 6:37 PM

Bush must be thanking his lucky stars he left the Whitehouse when he did and threw the hospital (morgue??) pass of the nation's economy and general health to Obama. Great timing W!


February 2, 2009 12:58 PM

I am not enthused by President Obama's success or plans so far. There was a lot of press, from the left, about his first 100 and it sure is loosing its luster quickly; unless your hinging the success the reversal of the Bush policies.

So far two of his nominees have broken the tax laws, one has no experience for the role, the others are Clinton clingon's. Then on top of a lot of miss-steps in key nominations he could not muster up one Republican vote for the stimulus bill in the house; maybe because the House bill is so full of BS and FAT. So much for Change and reaching across the aisle!

On top of the dismal start, his administration missed the opportunity to prove to world he was about change and he had a plan; that is what he campaigned on wasn’t it? I believe the comments emanating from the World Economic Forum are a glimpse into the challenges this Administration better realize and work to address. Again, he campaigned that he had all the answers, major changes in the first 100 days, and collaboration/cooperation.

President Obama, and Washington, put your money where you mouth is and do your job’s. Put the pettiness aside and do what is right for the Country and People. Try living up to the expectations you have set.


February 3, 2009 10:12 AM

Elmalo, you say Obama and his administration are socialists and communists, and have the gumption to mention the Russians and Chinese as the
'real world leaders'. Have you forgotten where communism started, and who the two biggest perpetraters are , still today.

tony davis

February 4, 2009 4:34 PM

I'm pleased Obama didn't put focus on this session. He, and team are hard at work here at home where they need to be.

Catering to a bunch of executives would have sent an incorrect signal.

This is day what 14? Do i sense people acting as though Obama has been in office 8 years? and not 14 days?

Obama and company are headed in the right direction. We have to invest in activities that are going to make us more productive as a nation such as infrastructure and green energy.

Catering to a large collection of the people responsible for getting us into this mess wouldn't have been a good idea.


February 6, 2009 11:34 AM

Where are Obama's real programs/goals? It appears all he's doing now is throwing whatever he can and seeing what sticks. He's pushing $900 BILLION for what? Infrastructure is less than 5% of the total. How about 90% on real assets (roads, utilities, public transportation) that will make a difference. I'm tired of the high and mighty rhetoric. I've heard it for 4 YEARS. Show me some specifics.

And to be realistic, by the time the government spends all that money, guess what? The economy probably will be recovering on its own. But we'll have saddled the future with massive debt to unstable and potentially dangerous countries.


February 12, 2009 2:48 PM

Judging by the fact that these 'CEO's were responsible for putting us in this mess in the first place - their disappointment is not only expected but encouraged.


January 27, 2010 5:32 PM

When it is bailout time CEOs run to the governments especially Uncle Sam and take taxpayer money. These CEOs have not created new jobs, they are still part of the biggest job destroying machine ever...50 million jobs lost around the world (IMF numbers).

When it is job creation time how many jobs did these CEOs create? How many loans did they give so small businesses could grow?

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