Obama: Ireland, beer and big gestures…

Well, he might have said he was only here for the beer… It was well done though. Head to Moneygall first, have a strangely knowledgeable conversation with bar man about how Guinness doesn’t travel, the importance of the man who keeps it well and have Michelle set up a free one for the local PP, and then pay the bar bill!

In the US’s collective imagination Ireland signifies gregarious beer drinkers, which is generally the kind of thing respectable middle America likes to quaintly celebrate but not indulge in itself. The west coast coffee house is rapidly displacing the east coast pub as the signal focus for social exchange of US society. A switch from ‘Cheers’ to ‘Friends’, if you like. Moneygall’s stage Irish show should remind Americans of their slightly dishevelled but highly social origins in whichever part of the old world they came from.

All of which is great optics to the US market for their professorially aloof Brahmin president. Like some big blockbuster blowing into town and then blowing out again, the opener had more to do with next year’s general election in the US than it did for Ireland. The humble house in the main street at Moneygall a nice contrast to the President’s historic academic connections with Trinity, through a Protestant ancestor with what we in Northern Ireland would generally see as a ‘Catholic’ name who (like his more famous and more successful contemporary Edmund Burke) seemed to rather well for himself at the time.

Presumably this was one reason why Obama wanted to make his speech in College Green (Croke Park looked little too like Soldier Field). Though it was noticeable that the backdrop was the old Irish Parliament building, where Henry Grattan intoned in his last speech:

“The constitution may for a time seem lost. The character of the country cannot be lost. The ministers of the Crown will find that it is not so easy to put down for ever an ancient and respectable nation by abilities, however great, and by power and corruption, however irresistible. Liberty may repair her golden beam, and with redoubled heat animate the country.”

And Obama’s preacherly version:

…if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, or your challenges are too great, that we can’t do something, that we shouldn’t even try — think about all that we’ve done together. Remember that whatever hardships the winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner.

So what of the politics? Well there wasn’t much. Keep messages: don’t give on Corporation Tax to the Germans and French (hot topic that one amongst DC’s corporate lobby); and don’t ask me about special rights for Irish illegals. On the upside the International Fund for Ireland may have its sentence commuted courtesy of the endless campaign of GOP Rep Pete King.

Christine Odone found the whole theatrics way too much, but there’s not much chance many outside the hard core diaspora will take much notice of this visit beyond Paddy’s green shamrock shores… The middle east and the global debt crisis is where it is at for the US just now…

And as Fionnan notes in the Irish Independent today, “it won’t cut bailout interest rate”…

  • Delta Omega

    If his first pint of Guinness was in Shannon – how did he know it tasted better here?

  • Greenflag

    No it won’t cut bail out rates but then here’s the father of Reaganomics as in trickle down ‘prosperity’ having a change of heart and suggesting that not only was it all a bad dream but that ‘revolution’ and overthrowing governments in the west may be all that’s left . I wonder exactly when and how Paul Craig Roberts a former assistant USA Treasury Chief and editor of the Wall Street journal had his ‘damascus ‘moment . Could he have had too many Guinesses?


    Mr Obama’s visit was a nice diversion after the somewhat staid visit of Queenie and both will be judged in their own way as ‘successes’ . But we must’nt forget that for all the hoopla the USA has 50 million of it’s people on food stamps which means that 50 million people out of 300 million or one sixth of the population of the ‘richest and most powerful ‘country on the planet are unable to earn enough to feed themselves and without state support would starve to death.

    Perhaps the comparison is too crass but 165 years ago it was not all that different when in the then richest and most powerful country on earth Great Britain a million died of starvation in the south and west of Ireland and a million people were forced to emigrate . At the same time food was exported from Ireland to feed the ‘fat cats ‘ in London .

    They called it laissez faire economics at the time -today they call it neo conservatism . But no matter what they call it the outcome remains the same . Starvation and death for a large part of the population while doing anything to restrict the avarice of the banksters is called a ‘moral hazard ‘

    Mr Roberts is worth listening to in this 10 minute interview and Max restrains his normal histrionics .The number of foreclosures continues to increase and the number of children in the USA living in ‘poverty’ has increased from 7 million in 2005 to 14 million in 2011. As Roberts admits the USA is now ruled by a corporate oligarchy and is no longer a democracy and ditto for Greece and Ireland and the UK !

    Meanwhile the most our powerless government can do is to throw their support behind French Minister LaGuarde as the new Chairman of the IMF . As if changing the captain on the Titanic would have made any difference once the iceberg had ripped out the hull.


  • I think its safe to say that Obamas Irish ancestors were as “Irish” as the Ulster Scots….families that moved here for the main chance and went off to the American colonies when things turned sour in the mid 18th century.
    Indeed people like Obamas “Irish” ancestors might indirectly have caused the Ulster-Scots (Scotch (sic)-Irish) to get on the boats.
    A TV programme on RTE last week indicated that Obama might actually be descended from Danish troops who settled here in and around the Siege of Limerick.

    There is actually a lot of interesting migrations (other than the traditional patterns) in the Mid West, only some of it relating to Williamite-Jacobite times.
    Obviously we have the “Catholic” planted counties of “Queens County” and “Kings County” but we also have Palatines in and around Rathkeale, County Limerick and Quakers in Mountmellick, County Laois.

    Both have museums commemorating this heritage and well wort a visit.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “Mr Obama’s visit was a nice diversion after the somewhat staid visit of Queenie and both will be judged in their own way as ‘successes’ . But we must’nt forget that for all the hoopla the USA has 50 million of it’s people on food stamps which means that 50 million people out of 300 million or one sixth of the population of the ‘richest and most powerful ‘country on the planet are unable to earn enough to feed themselves and without state support would starve to death.”

    Ssshh! You’re ruining the “think about all that we’ve done together” moment.

    Here’s Obama’s big plan, from back in 09:

    Obama, who pledged during last year’s presidential campaign to eliminate hunger among children by 2015, reiterated that goal on Monday. “My Administration is committed to reversing the trend of rising hunger,” the president said in a statement. The solution begins with job creation, Obama said. And he ticked off steps that Congress and the administration have taken, or are planning, including increases in food stamp benefits and $85 million Congress just freed up through an appropriations bill to experiment with feeding more children during the summer, when subsidized school breakfasts and lunches are unavailable.

    So what did they do? They spent a year on health care reform while millions of Americans lost their jobs, and to add to their hunger problem, they lost their employment-related health care along with their job. Obama’s a clueless ideologue and all the inane and singularly wrong Friends to Cheers tripe doesn’t change that. In fact, the reality is just the opposite:

    Abstention in the US is inversely associated with social status. The lower the social class, the higher the abstention.

    So as we become poorer we drink less, with no Cheers to Friends conversion.

    Lastly, Greenie, I wouldn’t exactly call Obama a “neo-conservative”, nor any of the Dems who supported a health care system that most Americans don’t want, while meanwhile, and again, millions lost both their job and their health care. Recall that it was otherwise Slick Willie who signed NAFTA. You might look at the skyrocketing trade imbalance with both Canada and Mexico that followed. Truly lastly, was otherwise Obama’s man Frank Raines, who while with Fannie Mae, testified before Congress that all of those now defaulted and foreclosed on home mortgages were “riskless” and so who needs the usual reserve (thereby allowing Fannie Mae to fund even more bad loans with the money that ought to have been held in reserve). As the hearing showed, Frank Raines & Co did just enough to max out, to the very last penny, the maximum bonuses allowed for the various and sundry Fannie Mae employees. In other words, despite the “bankster” routine, Wall St. had nothing on Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac).

  • Mickles

    @ slappy

    The cost of US healthcare and monopoly private companies have on it contributed to the hardships of the poor, with those who were unable to afford healthcare using up a LOT of tax dollars by going to the emergency room for procedures which could have been prevented if they could have had affordable health care.

    It took a year because the republicans blocked and vilified it at every turn – misinformed the public about healthcare reform and whipped them into a frenzy using the murdoch press lie machine (remember the phoney death-panels scare tactic and the use of the word ‘obamacare’?) to demonise reform that would have helped not only the poor – but the wealthy too – as the tax spent of emergency room healthcare could have been used for so much more. (if you doubt this then I will provide multiple links to the GOP/fox news’ many, many, many on tape falsehoods about healthcare reform – I could literally post video links for a week and not be done there’s just so many lies).

    But god forbid the poor have easier, cheaper access to healthcare, you have to earn it (or be born into a family that can afford it).

    To say reform is ‘a health care system that most Americans don’t want’ is speculative at best – polls are ropey, and it’s impossible to determine due to the massive campaign of misinformation spread by the administration’s opponents, which left many angry but with no idea why.

    With regard to wall street – attempts by the administration to regulate the banks are blocked by – who? Oh, the republicans, surprise surprise:

    Ditto for oil:

    And the republicans refused to close tax loopholes for big oil:

    And why won’t they close the loopholes that allow this to happen with GE:

    I’m not trumpeting the success of Obama here, he could have been more aggressive, but chose to try and meet repubs in the middle (which was a mistake because they have no middle) – I’m merely stating that a lot more could have been done, if Republicans had engaged in actual politics for the well being of their people, instead of diametrically opposing anything and everything about the president.

  • Greenflag

    There is no middle in the Republican Party -They are all to the right of all or any European conservative parties . Bar the difference in centuries you could replace any of the top 100 Republicans in the USA with Charles Trevelyan -our Famine ‘maestro ‘ of laissez faire ‘death and starvation ‘ and you would’nt know the difference

    The cost of USA healthcare is obscene and made more so by the need for the private health insurance companies to make a 20% profit -return on their investment before any other considerations .

  • What a spiteful little column that was from Ms Odone. For starters, how on earth could Mr. Obama be accused of neglecting his Irish heritage in the formation of his vision… when he didn’t know he had one?

  • joeCanuck

    I can testify that a pint of Guinness in Canada does not compare with having one back in Ireland.

  • Presumably one of the underlings advised him of the difference in flavour between ‘export’ Guinness and ‘home’.

    The last time I saw him on tv he was playing table tennis with Cameron and a couple of kids, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Obama and Cameron were losing…

    It may be that there is an improved relationship between Obama and the British. He needs the Brits to be the ones being shot at.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “And why won’t they close the loopholes that allow this to happen with GE”

    Jebus, lad, but did you miss the following from the very article that you linked to:

    President Obama has said he is considering an overhaul of the corporate tax system, with an eye to lowering the top rate, ending some tax subsidies and loopholes and generating the same amount of revenue. He has designated G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, as his liaison to the business community and as the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and it is expected to discuss corporate taxes.

    “He understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy,” Mr. Obama said of Mr. Immelt, on his appointment in January, after touring a G.E. factory in upstate New York that makes turbines and generators for sale around the world.

    And we on the right aren’t as “green” as the likes of Greenie either:

    “Over the last decade, G.E. has spent tens of millions of dollars to push for changes in tax law, from more generous depreciation schedules on jet engines to “green energy” credits for its wind turbines.”

    That’s GE playing into your “green energy” meme.

    And they didn’t go running to Repubs:

    “The head of its tax team, Mr. Samuels, met with Representative Charles B. Rangel, then chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which would decide the fate of the tax break. As he sat with the committee’s staff members outside Mr. Rangel’s office, Mr. Samuels dropped to his knee and pretended to beg for the provision to be extended — a flourish made in jest, he said through a spokeswoman.

    That day, Mr. Rangel reversed his opposition to the tax break, according to other Democrats on the committee.”

    And for the purportedly “clean graft” that sealed the deal:

    The following month, Mr. Rangel and Mr. Immelt stood together at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem as G.E. announced that its foundation had awarded $30 million to New York City schools, including $11 million to benefit various schools in Mr. Rangel’s district. Joel I. Klein, then the schools chancellor, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who presided, said it was the largest gift ever to the city’s schools.

    And did you miss this as well, more Rangel:

    By 2008, however, concern over the growing cost of overseas tax loopholes put G.E. and other corporations on the defensive. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, momentum was building to let the active financing exception expire. Mr. Rangel of the Ways and Means Committee indicated that he favored letting it end and directing the new revenue — an estimated $4 billion a year — to other priorities.

    G.E. pushed back. In addition to the $18 million allocated to its in-house lobbying department, the company spent more than $3 million in 2008 on lobbying firms assigned to the task.

    Mr. Rangel dropped his opposition to the tax break. Representative Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York, said he had helped sway Mr. Rangel by arguing that the tax break would help Citigroup, a major employer in Mr. Crowley’s district.

    Lastly, for more on GE taking you green loons to the cleaners:

    On Sunday, NBC Universal launched its annual “Green Week,” as part of the company’s “Green is Universal” environmental awareness campaign.

    As NBC embarks on yet another week of “environmentally themed programming,” it falls to media watchdogs to point out the massive conflict presented by NBC parent company General Electric’s significant financial interests in the policies “Green Week” indirectly advances.

    GE stands to make millions from Democrats’ “clean energy” agenda. The company has invested massive amounts of money in technology that can only be profitable through government intervention or subsidization.

    And those new light bulbs, well, you can thank GE and the illiberal left once again:

    Incandescent light bulbs are far more convenient and less expensive than compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) that General Electric now produces. So how can General Electric sell its costly CFLs? They know that Congress has the power to outlaw incandescent light bulbs. General Electric was the prominent lobbyist for outlawing incandescent light bulbs and in 2008 had a $20 million lobbying budget. Also, it should come as no surprise that General Electric is a contributor to global warmers who help convince Congress that incandescent bulbs were destroying the planet.

    And, yes, as soon as the Dems took over, the incandescent bulb was made taboo, and never mind the toxic mercury in GE’s CFLs. And from RealClearScience:

    Next we come to the smaller version of type 3 bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs(CFL’s), which are overrated for three reasons:

    (1) Practically, the CFL’s are not as bright as halogens and although they match the light intensity of incandescent bulbs, they take a while to reach their peak intensity.

    (2) They were not designed for cold climates, where the traditional bulb’s inefficiency is less of a drawback. The heat generation is actually desirable for about 9 months of the year in the northern states and Canada because it means the main heat source in the home does not have to work as hard.

    (3) It’s ironic that something marketed as an environmental savior actually contains mercury. According to Environment Canada, the Hg content varies from 1 to 25 mg per bulb. There are about 115 million American households. If each household breaks 3 bulbs per year either by accident or indirectly by sending them to a landfill, then between 300 kg and 9000 kg of mercury (one significant figure) are added to the environment in the United States alone. The annual mercury emissions from all sources in the United States are estimated at 43 700 kg ( over 12000 kg from Alaska).

    So, cumulative mercury poisoning of our environment and they didn’t mention that the heat generated by the incandescent makes up for its inefficiency by helping to heat the home in winter.

    The next generation is the LED bulb (light emitting diode bulb), which will use arsenic. And the hits just keep on comin’…. As the piece ends:

    Although there are still technical challenges ahead, LED lights will probably replace CFL’s. But perhaps not to add too much arsenic to the environment, we should also use incandescent light or simply wait for sunrise to read science.

  • New Yorker

    There was very little coverage of Obama in Ireland on last night’s US national TV programs. Death and destruction in Missouri was the lead and predominating story.

    Our President was in the neighborhood and he stopped by enroute to important business on behalf of our country. That’s the story, as I see it. Nice to see he has not forgotten Ireland, but there are, as said above, more weighty matters at hand. It’s good that he can attend to both.

  • Brian

    I find this notion that Obama stop in Ireland had anything to do with his re-election pretty comical.

    Those of who claim “irish” ancestry (and there are a lot…almost every other white person I meet brings up how they are ‘part Irish’ when they find out where I’m from) hardly would make their electoral decision over Obama’s visit or policies regarding Ireland. Completely irrelevant. This isn’t 1920.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, Brian. At my former workplace here in Canada people displayed their Irish heritage on St.Patrick’s day by wearing green or silly hats or whatever. Well over half did so.

  • pauluk

    While Obama downs the Black Stuff, the peasants back home are displaying their disapproval of his recent antics regarding Israel.

    Prime Minister Netanyahu today apparently got 29 standing ovations from members of the joint meeting of Congress, including some for a few zingers aimed at Obama’s attitude towards of Israel.

    Obama has not be able to unite Americans on many things, but he certainly has succeeded in uniting Congress against him when it comes to Israel.

  • joeCanuck

    There will have to be a new agreed border between Israel and a Palestinian state. Where do you start? Obviously the previous border.

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    Superb celebrations, concert and speeches at College Green in Dublin. Among the ‘celebs’ that I saw were Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness strolling through Temple Bar toward the Bank of Ireland venue with their political southern counterpart TD’s Gerry among them.

  • lamhdearg

    And now that unplesantness is behind him, he has moved on to Great Britian, at least he has something to talk to Her Majesty about.

  • pauluk

    Joe, it’s obvious that Obama has neither the diplomatic or negotiating skills to help the situation in the Middle East.

    Even the US Congress is overwhelmingly opposed to his recent proposals, and it very much sympathises with the Israelis’ predicament of having to cope with 100’s of millions of Arabs who hate their guts and who can’t even abide their very existence.

  • lamhdearg

    Come september the palestintians are intending to declare statehood, they have the backing of the U.N and dozens of countrys around the world, millions of the descendents of those palestinians that where displace over the last 60+ years will then try to go home, and the 100s of millions of arabs that pauluk mentions will be behind them in support, the U.S. congressmen who are at the moment ” overwhelmingly opposed” to peace on anyones terms but the (zionist) AIPIC lobby groups, will be faced with the choice of facing down those 100s of millions of arabs and losing all influence in the middle east or facing down the AIPIC. I think Obama, on this is ahead of congress.

  • Mickles

    Slappy, your first ten lines are valid, then you seem to go off on one about light bulbs?!? Not sure why, but anyway, you miss my point that repubs vote down any attempt to close tax loopholes. It stands to reason that the admin should consult heavily the man who knows most about tax loopholes does it not? It’s no secret that GE has an army of tax lawyers and have been running rings around tax laws for a long time, the admin are committed to reforming and closing these loopholes. Would you rather they consult four times bankrupt Donald Trump about it?

    Maybe you’re using your lightbulb rant to avoid addressing my points about why attempts to regulate banks and wall street, big oil, and to reform healthcare so that tax dollars spent on emergency care for the uninsured can be saved – are vilified by repubs who offer no realistic alternative?

    — For the record I stuck an energy saver lightbulb in every socket in the house 3 years ago – I’ve never had to change any, never had to throw them out (no waste), after ten seconds they’re as bright as any other bulb and my electric bill is much lower than it used to be.