Unlike some conservatives, I never had a problem with President Obama’s trips to India and Indonesia. Both countries, after all, are rising democracies and growing economic powers. And both countries have large Muslim populations. Indonesia, in fact, has the world’s largest Muslim population, with more than 200 million Muslims.
It simply makes sense, then, for any American president, including Obama, to engage our Indian and Indonesian friends: Because both India and Indonesia have an increasingly important role to play in international affairs.
But one thing that has bothered me is the president’s narcissism. Indeed, perhaps not surprisingly for a man whose principal accomplishment before becoming president was to write two autobiographies, Obama has seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about himself on these trips. And it’s not just Obama, but the First Lady, too.
Here, for instance, is Michelle Obama during a visit with students at the University of Mumbai:
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. I mean, my parents — I had two parents. I was lucky to have two parents, and they always had a job, but we didn’t have a lot of money. But it was because of working hard, and studying, and learning how to write and read.
And then I got a chance to go to college. And then college opened up the world to me. I started seeing all these things that I could be or do — and I never even imagined being the First Lady of the United States. But because I had an education, when the time came to do this, I was ready.
So just remember there is nothing that you guys can’t do. You know, you have everything it takes to be successful and smart and to raise a family, right?
What do you say? You’ve got something to say. (Laughter.)
Well, the poor students in Mumbai might have had something to say, but the First Lady never let them say a word. Instead, she continued on with her monologue before permitting a question. She then answered that question by referring to her favorite subject: herself and Barack Obama!
“We are very proud of you all,” she replied.
We’re very proud, you know? When me and the president get a little tired because our work gets hard — sometimes it’s because — it’s when we get to spend time with you all that we go:
“Yeah, this is what it’s all about.” This is why we do what we do, because we’re trying to make this whole world better so that kids like you have the opportunities — the same opportunities — as every other kid, right? That’s what we’re working for.
Oh, brother! Well, I’m glad that that the First Lady is pleased with herself and the president. But really, isn’t this self-absorption a little much?
Unfortunately, the president wasn’t much better. “I come here not just to speak, but also to listen,” he intoned to a separate group of students at St. Xavier College in Mumbai.
I want to have a dialogue with you. And this is one of the wonderful things that I have a chance to do as President of the United States.
When I travel, we always try to set up a town hall meeting where we can interact with the next generation, because I want to hear from you. I want to find out what your dreams are, what your fears are, what your plans are for your country.