“ You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss,” sang the gravelly voiced Louis Armstrong in the immortal movie, “Casablanca.” That may be so in most cases, but when the kisser is newly re-elected US President Barack Obama and the kissed is Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, something’s gotta give in geopolitics.
Hence, to the neocons who predicted that Obama’s pivot to East Asia wouldn’t survive November and that it would be unceremoniously eclipsed by bloody turmoil in the Middle East: eat your hearts out, babes.
Democracy is like motherhood. Everybody is for it; in most circles, if you denigrate it people will wonder what planet you come from.
So some people are asking, what is the point of holding the annual Bali Democracy Forum, Asia’s sole intergovernmental forum on democracy, if the most it can achieve is the elaboration of the obvious? Moreover, because the forum does not allow finger pointing, its proceedings will often leave you with pious statements by representatives of authoritarian regimes pretending to aspire to become democracies.
The story may be apocryphal — I’ve read several versions of it — but it’s worth retelling: a mother once brought her young son to Mahatma Gandhi and implored, “Please,” she said, “please tell my son to stop eating sugar. It’s destroying his health.”
The Mahatma then told the mother, “Come back in a month.”
Three weeks ago, I was at the George Washington estate, Mt. Vernon, in Virginia, with my wife Noreen and the couple Adam and Nepretiri Policastro. Nep is a childhood friend of Noreen, and Adam is an Italian American whose job it is to make scores of millions of dollars every few months for the bank he works for.
The estate, a national landmark awash with local tourists, was once a plantation worked by slaves. Nestled on a bank of the gently flowing Potomac, it’s a neat piece of property with boundaries that were once disputed. It’s also the final resting place of America’s first president, who reputedly could not tell a lie. He is counterpointed today by a presidential candidate who cannot tell the truth. Romney, of course.