- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

LONDON (AP) - What’s more amazing than a group of world leaders, including some countries that once were adversaries, sitting together and negotiating to fix the global economy?

How about “a president of the United States named Obama?”

It was President Barack Obama’s attempt to strike a light-hearted tone Thursday at a news conference marking the end of his participation in his first international summit, where the slumping world economy dominated the agenda.

Obama’s references to his Kenyan surname have been a staple of his appearances.

He has described himself as a “skinny kid with a funny name.”

During the two years he spent campaigning for office, the Democrat cautioned audiences that his Republican opponents would try to scare them by saying, “Well, Obama, he’s got a funny name.”

He also implored audiences not to “judge me because I’ve got a funny name.”

Even his wife, Michelle, has run with the theme at times.

She has said that what struck her about Obama the first time they met “was that even though he had this funny name” their families were a lot alike.


It was far from the greeting reporters expected when they dialed a toll-free telephone number to connect with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a briefing on the NATO summit.

“Do you have any hidden desires?” a female voice said. “Well, do you feel like getting nasty?”

Instead of hearing sober administration talking points, callers got Swank magazine’s adult phone line.

The White House had arranged the conference call with Clinton and retired Gen. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, to discuss Friday’s summit, and sent reporters the number.

No one caught the typo.

The White House subsequently sent reporters the correct call-in number, and they joined the conversation in progress.


When a reporter from China Central Television asked Obama whether he’d come up with a catchphrase of his own to describe relations between the U.S. and China, the president demurred.

“Your American counterparts will tell you I’m terrible with those little catchphrases and sound bites,” the president said. “So I haven’t come up with anything catchy yet. But if you have any suggestions, let me know.”

“I’ll be happy to use them,” Obama added.

It may be too early yet to start applying labels to the relationship, but Obama sprinkled his opening statement and his answers to questions from 10 U.S. and international reporters with expressions he’s relied on again and again.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” he said in response to one question.

To another questioner, Obama expressed excitement about his role in healing the economy and moving it away from dependence on a cycle “of bubble and bust,” which, as he noted, is “something that I’ve spoken about back home.”

(He tossed out the “bubble and bust” phrase twice.)

Obama also mentioned the “new era of responsibility.” He often talks about that at home, too.


He’s not a rock star but still gets treated like one. So does it come as a surprise that a seat at Obama’s news conference was the hottest ticket in London?

Hundreds of reporters from around the world packed a cavernous hall inside the ExCel Center while Obama answered reporters’ questions at the close of the G-20 economic summit.

Still, hundreds more had lined up outside the room trying to get in. Another hundred or so photographers scrunched together alongside the stage.

White House aides at one point warned reporters traveling with Obama that they should leave their work area as soon as they could because the line was long _ and growing.

When Obama wrapped up his appearance and prepared to leave the stage, some reporters applauded _ a departure from U.S. media protocol to simply stand _ silently _ in respect.

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