To give you an idea of just how unimportant the APEC summit was to the White House press corps, consider the fact that, of the 10 or so questions asked of President Barack Obama at his concluding press conference, just three or four were about APEC.
The first three questions Sunday were about other international matters: Iran, waterboarding and nuclear weapons, the latter two as a result of Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate.
There was also a question about the Penn State scandal, the Congressional supercommittee and budget cuts, the jobs bills and a hot microphone in France.
Of the APEC-related questions, they all focused on just one other APEC member economy — China. One of the questions was also prompted by GOP criticism of the president.
The single press conference question about Hawaii concerned the president’s decision not to have APEC leaders don aloha shirts. It got a laugh but no doubt stung the folks at Tori Richard, Reyn Spooner, Hilo Hattie (and probably the Hawaii APEC Host Committee).
But no matter.
Obama gave his press conference outdoors as the sun set into the Pacific. More than 100 journalists were there to record and broadcast the moment — a classy end to a (mostly) trouble-free APEC summit.
Whether America truly does “pivot” from Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia to the economies of the Pacific Rim, as the president said it would at APEC, won’t be known for some time.
What is clear, though, is that Honolulu is capable of holding a world-class event.
Rising to the Challenge
Keep in mind that Honolulu beat out Los Angeles and San Francisco to host APEC. Sure, we were helped in no small part by the fact that Obama was born here.
But Honolulu has never held an international event comparable to APEC. We may never be a Geneva of the Pacific, let alone a Yalta or Oslo. But, we pulled it off.
Credit goes to the federal, state and government officials and agencies, and to law enforcement. As much as we hated all those traffic jams, the road closures and motorcades were executed near perfectly.
As well, for all the worry that protests against APEC would turn violent, groups like World Can’t Wait Hawaii, Occupy Honolulu and Moana Nui exercised their First Amendment rights with discipline and thoughtfulness.
(In the case of musician Makana, the protest made its way into the dinner music for APEC leaders at the Hale Koa Saturday night.)
The Honolulu Police Department, meanwhile, handled the protests with aloha. Yes, there were arrests. But the word most used to describe the protests was “peaceful.”
Ohana is Family
The APEC summit started with a terrible event: The shooting of a local man in Waikiki, allegedly at the hands of a federal agent here for APEC.
The security was also unusually tight; foreign journalists who covered previous APEC summits said they had not experienced such a level of control before.
(In another illustration of just how U.S.-centric the APEC summit was, it’s worth pointing out that the president took no questions from the foreign press — even though many tried hard to get his attention at the Ihilani press conference.)
But then, this was the president’s birthplace. And it was this president who evoked Hawaiian values in a toast to fellow leaders.
The state may not reap the millions of dollars that APEC was expected to bring in. It is still unclear just how many people even came. The expense in security and manpower will be tremendous.
We may also not see the likes of an APEC summit on these shores any time soon.
But, Honolulu pulled it off, and the world was watching.
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