Kerry meets Barack

Tonight’s edition of the 7:30 Report [transcript] was a massive coup for the ABC, featuring a relatively brief, but wide-ranging interview with U.S. President Barack Obama. One would have to think that the interview was a career highlight for Kerry O’Brien, who remains Australian television’s most credible political journalist. It’s hard to imagine many (or any) other Australian television identity managing to secure an interview with the most influential politician on Earth. Its perhaps even harder to imagine having to sit through such an interview if conducted by one of Australia’s commercial television current affairs “identities”. Actually I’m sorry for even bringing that up; it feels a bit like the cultural cringe equivalent of someone walking over your grave.

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In watching the program, one did get the sense that O’Brien’s line of questioning was tempered with just a little awe and reverence. He did, nevertheless, cover a reasonable spread of serious questions, including the war in Afghanistan, the President’s priorities now that his health reform bill has passed, and climate change. The President’s comments on his relationship with Kevin Rudd will of course be viewed with particular interest locally. One would imagine that the Prime Minister will be very pleased indeed by the glowing lip service provided by his counterpart.

One was also reminded just what a considered and thoughtful person the United States President is. It’s hard to imagine either of the previous two Presidents of the United States uttering truisms like this, on the implications of the rise of China for American hegemony:

It is in our interests, both of our countries interests for China to be successful, for China to be prosperous, because that means they’re more likely to be stable, that means they’re more likely to be able to deal with issues like the energy efficiency of their industries, and reduce pollution, and so we’re not interested in constraining China, we want China to do well. The only thing we want to make sure of is that a country like China as it is growing and inevitably will end up being the largest economy just because of the enormous size of their population, that they are also taking their international responsibilities seriously and that they recognise that with great power comes great responsibility.

Is it too early to be talking about “four more years”?