George Bush on the flight deck in a snug fighter pilot suit was decent theater. Just not the theater of the actual war.
But it's the rough-and-tough, no nonsense swagger of John Wayne/Ronald Reagan that seems to be bathing world leader contestants in its orange sunset Western macho glow.
What happened to the Sensitive Man?
"Obama to Automakers: It's My Way or the Highway," reads a Reuters headline. He may not have told GM to drop dead, but he definitely insisted they drop down. He actually fired a CEO, prompting questions on cable blab: can he actually do that? (Yes he can! Ready! Fire! Aim!)
But it's not just Mr. Obama. Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, the international standard bearer of subtlety and sophistication, has threatened to walk out of the G-20, adding, "No agreement is secured. I know by experience that we will need to fight until the last minute." Is he channeling Kruschev?
Obama and Brown seem to have called his school-yard bully bluff with the diplomatic equivalent of an "Oh yeah?" "Yeah!" says Sarkozy's second, Germany's Angela Merkel. It's an economic rumble, fight by the monkey bars at 3 p.m. Be there or be square.
Then there's Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir, who flipped the bird to war crimes charges over Darfur from the International Criminal Court. President al-Bashir went out and threw himself a street party, then jetted to Qatar to be swaddled in the protective burnoose of the Arab League. What war crimes? The last one who tried that schtick was Slobodan Milosevic and he keeled over dead trying to defend himself. But Mr. al-Bashir is acting like those steely Somali pirates with their endless chutzpah.
But despite Vice President Biden begging a softer and kinder approach from G-20 protestors, and the protestors themselves civily having tea outside the Bank of London, even First Ladies got into the "Quien Es Mas Macho?" mood.
"G-20 fashion smackdown" reads an LATimes.com headline. "Obama vs. Brown vs. Bruni-Sarkozy." Hey! No contest there. Which of their countries threw off the shackles of empire and who is now the wife of the world's most powerful man? Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi would be proud.
For more, read Bronstein at Large.