Obama not one to shy away from the spotlight

WASHINGTON // It is a busy week on the global stage for Barack Obama, who yesterday led a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York and tomorrow will host the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. But even with his jam-packed schedule of high-level meetings, not to mention yesterday's trilateral summit on Middle East peace, the US president found time for a sit down of another sort, albeit one less likely to show up in the history books: an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Equipped with an easy smile and his usual deadpan humour, Mr Obama showed little of the stresses that come with his office. He touched on some key issues, including healthcare reform and the war in Afghanistan, but it was a largely lighthearted affair for the president, who at one point poked fun at the ongoing debate over whether many of his critics are racist. "I think it's important to realise that I was actually black before the election," Mr Obama said with a straight face as the audience and Letterman broke into laughter.

It was the first time a sitting president has appeared on the popular programme and the most recent in a wave of small-screen appearances by Mr Obama who, experts say, has been in the public eye more than any of his predecessors. Robert Thompson, the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said Mr Obama is set even to outshine Ronald Reagan, the former president and Hollywood actor who relished his on-camera appearances.

"If he keeps up this pace, there's no question he becomes the most televised president," Mr Thompson said. Since taking office, US audiences have seen their commander-in-chief in a variety of televised settings, whether it was between innings at Major League Baseball's All Star Game or visiting a burger joint with Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC's Nightly News. Mr Obama has held four prime time press conferences and his near daily town hall meetings are a staple of cable talk shows. On Sunday it did not matter what channel Americans turned to: Mr Obama was on five separate networks as part of an unprecedented media blitz to sell his healthcare reform plan.

Democratic strategists say the frequent appearances effectively drown out the opposition. "I think the old rules don't apply in this new age of instant and ubiquitous communication," said Tad Devine, a longtime political operative and chief political consultant to Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. "He is the strongest messenger that [Democrats] have and the best advocate for the change he is seeking."

But appearing frequently in the spotlight also risks overexposure, according to Tim Brooks, a television historian and former executive vice president of research for Lifetime Networks. It can make the president "seem like something that is ordinarily there, something that we can ignore", he said. Some Republicans have used Mr Obama's stream of publicity to open up new lines of attack. George Will, a prominent conservative writer who last week counted 263 public events involving the president since January, wrote in Newsweek that the media blitz is providing "CPR for the Republican Party".

"His incessant talking cannot combat what it has caused: an increasing number of Americans do not believe that he believes what he says," Mr Will wrote. "He's been on everything but the Food Channel," quipped Lindsey Graham a South Carolina senator, who appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday shortly after Mr Obama. Spending so much time in the public view has also given Mr Obama more chances to make mistakes.

In a March appearance on NBC's The Tonight Show hosted by Jay Leno - the first time a White House occupant graced that programme - Mr Obama stumbled by comparing a bowling outing to being "like Special Olympics". The offensive comments led to a swift presidential apology. Likewise, in one of his nationally televised press conferences, Mr Obama inserted himself into a racial controversy by saying that police "acted stupidly" when they arrested a prominent black scholar.

Just last week, as he prepared for an interview on CNBC, Mr Obama was recorded criticising the rap star Kanye West for an incident in which West grabbed a microphone from another star at the MTV Music Awards. The comments became an internet sensation, underscoring the fact that unwanted attention also comes with being the country's celebrity-in-chief. For now the administration calculates that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Mr Obama's speech to Congress earlier this month drew 32 million viewers according to The Nielsen Company, which tracks television viewership. The performance led to a bump in Mr Obama's approval ratings, a CBS News poll showed. The Late Show, meanwhile, averages 3.6m nightly viewers, giving Mr Obama access to a block of mainstream Americans whose support could prove crucial as he attempts to sell his agenda amid a crush of Republican opposition.

"There's an awful lot of misinformation out there that gets floated around and that's what we have to fight through," Mr Obama told Letterman, sitting in a chair normally reserved for actors and musicians. "That's why I end up having to be on the Dave Letterman show." sstanek@thenational.aea


First round
Emmanuel Macron: 51.1%
Francois Fillon: 24.2%
Jean-Luc Melenchon: 11.8%
Benoit Hamon: 7.0%
Marine Le Pen: 2.9%

Second round
Emmanuel Macron: 95.1%
Marine Le Pen: 4.9%

Neymar's bio

Total club appearances 411

Total goals scored 241

Appearances for Barca 186

Goals scored for Barca 105


Company name: Mozn

Started: 2017

Founders: Mohammed Alhussein, Khaled Al Ghoneim, Abdullah Alsaeed and Malik Alyousef

Based: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Industry: FinTech

Funding: $10 million

Investors: Raed Ventures, Shorooq Partners, VentureSouq, Sukna Ventures and others

The flights

Return flights from Dubai to Windhoek, with a combination of Emirates and Air Namibia, cost from US$790 (Dh2,902) via Johannesburg.
The trip
A 10-day self-drive in Namibia staying at a combination of the safari camps mentioned – Okonjima AfriCat, Little Kulala, Desert Rhino/Damaraland, Ongava – costs from $7,000 (Dh25,711) per person, including car hire (Toyota 4x4 or similar), but excluding international flights, with The Luxury Safari Company.
When to go
The cooler winter months, from June to September, are best, especially for game viewing. 

Kamindu Mendis bio

Full name: Pasqual Handi Kamindu Dilanka Mendis

Born: September 30, 1998

Age: 20 years and 26 days

Nationality: Sri Lankan

Major teams Sri Lanka's Under 19 team

Batting style: Left-hander

Bowling style: Right-arm off-spin and slow left-arm orthodox (that's right!)

Where to submit a sample

Volunteers of all ages can submit DNA samples at centres across Abu Dhabi, including: Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre+(Adnec), Biogenix Labs in Masdar City, NMC Royal Hospital in Khalifa City, NMC Royal Medical Centre, Abu Dhabi, NMC Royal Women's Hospital, Bareen International Hospital, Al Towayya in Al Ain, NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain


• Looming global slowdown and recession in key economies

• Russia-Ukraine war

• Interest rate hikes and the rising cost of debt servicing

• Oil price volatility

• Persisting inflationary pressures

• Exchange rate fluctuations

• Shortage of labour/skills

• A resurgence of Covid?

The specs

Price, base: Dh228,000 / Dh232,000 (est)
Engine: 5.7-litre Hemi V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 395hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 552Nm
Fuel economy, combined: 12.5L / 100km

The specs: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA

Price, base / as tested Dh150,900 / Dh173,600

Engine 2.0L inline four-cylinder

Transmission Seven-speed automatic

Power 211hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque 350Nm @ 1,200rpm

Fuel economy, combined 6.4L / 100km

Match info

Uefa Champions League Group F

Manchester City v Hoffenheim, midnight (Wednesday, UAE)

Bahrain GP

Friday qualifying: 7pm (8pm UAE)

Saturday race: 7pm (UAE)

TV: BeIN Sports


Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The years Ramadan fell in May





How it works

1) The liquid nanoclay is a mixture of water and clay that aims to convert desert land to fertile ground

2) Instead of water draining straight through the sand, it apparently helps the soil retain water

3) One application is said to last five years

4) The cost of treatment per hectare (2.4 acres) of desert varies from $7,000 to $10,000 per hectare 

Quick pearls of wisdom

Focus on gratitude: And do so deeply, he says. “Think of one to three things a day that you’re grateful for. It needs to be specific, too, don’t just say ‘air.’ Really think about it. If you’re grateful for, say, what your parents have done for you, that will motivate you to do more for the world.”

Know how to fight: Shetty married his wife, Radhi, three years ago (he met her in a meditation class before he went off and became a monk). He says they’ve had to learn to respect each other’s “fighting styles” – he’s a talk it-out-immediately person, while she needs space to think. “When you’re having an argument, remember, it’s not you against each other. It’s both of you against the problem. When you win, they lose. If you’re on a team you have to win together.” 

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