After all, we’re talking about a guy who once tranquilized a tiger in front of the cameras. When President Bush visited Putin’s house a few years ago, the then-Russian prez tried to show Bush up by bragging that his dog was better than then-official White House canine Barney—this according to W. himself, who laughed about the episode later in a talk with reporters at the White House.
Did Putin try to besmirch Bo? No word on that, but White House officials have repeated again and again, with some surprise, how well Obama and Putin seemed to get on—citing, among other things, that the meeting went longer than planned. Asked if there was any bonding in “personal way,” the official quickly flatly said no. “It was a very interesting morning,” a senior administration official told reporters. “I think the president enjoyed it very much, and they formed a basis of a good relation upon which they can build and go on from this point in future discussions and negotiations.”
That’s not to say they didn’t disagree—another official quickly reminded us that there was plenty of disagreement, but that it was cordial. Later, Mike McFaul, Obama’s chief Russian adviser, offered more details—explaining that Obama and Putin “talked about all the things you imagine we would talk about.” Though later, he admitted they didn’t specifically address one thing: human rights. “It was a broader discussion,” McFaul said. “I wouldn’t say we had a direct conversation about that. We did talk about a broad — kind of the role of governments and economics and the role of foreign policy, but I think it would be wrong to characterize it as a discussion about democracy and human rights. It is not.”
Although that’s just one issue, it’s a big one—and one bound to lead to speculation about what exactly Obama accomplished in his dealings with Putin. Did anything actually change?