You had to be in the State Department during the run up to the just-concluded Summit of the Americas (SOA). You could cut the smugness and condescension with a knife. Obamaistas were boasting about how the SOA would be a triumph as Cuba was not going to be raised, and drugs would not be a major issue. Fail.
Deja vu. They were equally as giddy after the April 2009 SOA in Trinidad in which, they claimed ad nauseam, that President Obama had "wowed" the Latin Americans, and that our policy in Latin America was now on a sound footing after the "bad " Bush. I was working in our delegation to the Organization of American States (OAS) and heading for Honduras for the June 2009 39th GA of the OAS. The feeling throughout the Administration was that Obama, thanks to his "third world" background, his breaking of racial barriers, and his willingness to apologize for the United States had Latin American leaders swooning at his every word. We were assured by the Secretary and her acolytes that thanks to Obama's "rock star" performance, not only would the OAS General Assembly go swimmingly, but so would our relations with the Hemisphere.
The administration refused to believe persistent information we had that the host of the GA, the soon-to-be deposed Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, was going to double-cross us and insist on Cuba being admitted to the OAS. We had a raucous GA in which we were betrayed by Honduras, Brazil, and Argentina, who threw in with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador in pushing for Cuba. We were able to stop it only because of tough negotiating into the wee wee hours by career officers, and the invaluable assistance of the Chilean Foreign Minister. The following two years in the OAS were a constant anti-American slug-fest; nobody respected or feared Barack Obama. Clearly, the "wow" factor had a very short life.
The SOA that just ended in the amazingly beautiful city of Cartagena was a disaster. (Note: If you get the chance, go to Cartagena. It is a stunning city with a terrific history and architecture, and some great people. In fact, if you get a chance, go to Colombia, a wonderful country that has re-invented itself with a lot of hard work by some very brave men and women.) It was a disaster, and not because of the Secret Service prostitution scandal. On the contrary, that scandal is a godsend as it overshadows how poorly Obama and Clinton did in Cartagena on the substance. This SOA showed, once again, how out of touch the Obamaistas are with Latin America and the Caribbean, and their persistent disregard of Canada, by far our most important foreign relation in the world, and an invaluable ally in the OAS and the Hemisphere. The Obamaistas live in Fantasyland, and do not allow reality to disturb their E-Ticket ride.
We got hammered on Cuba, and drugs, and nearly all the others have made it known that this will be the last SOA without Castro's Cuba in attendance. (One wonders if Obama asked the Latin Americans to wait for his re-election when he will have more "flexibility" on Cuba.) Even our traditional ally Colombia, under President Santos, put significant distance between himself and us. Santos clearly feels he owes nothing to Obama, after Obama stiff-armed Colombia on the Free Trade Agreement for three years, and signaled weakness vis-a-vis Castro, Chavez and his ALBA gangsters (see my previous posting on Latin America.) There was no joint declaration, not even some diplomatic pablum, at the end of the SOA.
The US was essentially a non-factor at the SOA, a process we invented and once used effectively to promote free trade, capitalism, and democracy. No more. Now it is just another forum to beat up on the USA--and that is very easy with the Obama-Clinton team.