During his end-of-year press conference on Friday, US President Barack Obama, the leader of the world’s only remaining superpower, spoke for an hour and a half without saying anything of any worth related to political issues, and without receiving a single important question from the visiting journalists. Instead, Obama spent far too long talking about the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the US blames on North Korea. He didn’t talk about his country’s current landmark talks with Iran, for example, nor about Syria or Iraq, Russia, or the Arab–Israeli conflict.
It is well known that questions in press conferences at the White House are not posed in haphazard fashion; instead, they are carefully chosen and ordered—all the journalists chosen to attend Friday’s year-end presser were women, for example, and the White House confirmed this was done by design.
It is true that news of the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the pulling of its movie, The Interview, broke that day—but the world is not Sony. The biggest news story of 2014 is surely not the cancelation of a comedy film but the scale of the human tragedy occurring in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. Countless people are being killed and whole countries are being threatened, global security is facing real dangers. So when President Obama said during the press conference that his country has proven its position as a leader in the world, we really should have heard more questions about some of the more pressing matters in the world today and the views of the leader of the world’s only superpower regarding them.
Among these: the reason for the stalling of the US–Iran talks; why former US secretary of defense Chuck Hagel resigned (or was fired); the president’s vision for fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); how he sees the future of Iraq, and why he is sending troops to that country once again; why some US troops will remain in Afghanistan; the methods that can be used to fight Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s crimes; his position on the recent terror attacks in Australia and Pakistan; why he held a recent telephone conversation with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and whether this means he has changed his position on Egypt; the state of the crisis with Russia, the status of the sanctions, and what is required of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Indeed, the world was awaiting much more from the US president during this press conference: allies awaiting reassurances, and enemies curious as to whether the US administration really means what is being said by those representing it. For the world is not Sony, and nor are the peoples of countries currently blighted by violence and oppression, such as those of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Palestine and others, really that concerned with a “crisis” relating to a movie; such things represent luxuries these people cannot afford right now. Furthermore, the US president did not clarify the exact nature of the US response toward North Korea, and was not asked a single serious question on the matter—what if the US launched counter cyberattacks on the country, for example, or its banking or air navigation systems; or if Iran might follow North Korea’s lead here?
And so, those who believe in Santa Claus, and were perhaps awaiting a “gift” or two from the US president during the festive season, are to rue their bad luck—because the international community got nothing from Obama during his year-end press conference.