Obama's 'bland' speech - Hosking

Newstalk ZB Staff,
Publish Date
Friday, 23 March 2018, 10:54AM
Mike Hosking had a lot to say about President Obama's speech. (Photo / Getty Images)

Former US President Barack Obama looked tired, brought nothing to the table and his evening with an exclusive New Zealand audience was a "missed opportunity", says broadcaster Mike Hosking.

In a 75-minute Q&A session with actor Sam Neill in front of an invite-only audience of 1000 people, Obama joked he was visiting New Zealand on a "scoping" mission for wife Michelle.

Despite this, Mike said that it was a "four or five out of 10" at best.

"A lot of people will speak well of the night, will want to be polite. I see it as a missed opportunity.

"There is no question when [Obama] walks in the room there is magic, like Mandela, there is something there. When he comes in you are a ready for something brilliant.

READ MORE: Mike Hosking: I give Obama 4 out of 10

During the speech, Obama said he had not visited New Zealand until now because the country was a true friend and ally that had never caused issues during his presidency. He was particularly praising of Sir John Key for his support, as a leader and friend, during their respective tenures.

The 44th president of the United States of America also shared insights about the importance of women in leadership roles and around boardroom tables.

He said he firmly believed if every country had a female leader for a mandatory period of, say, two years, then issues such as war, conflict and child poverty would ease.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America spoke of woman in leaders roles and life after the presidency at a dinner in Auckland on Thursday.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America spoke of woman in leaders roles and life after the presidency at a dinner in Auckland on Thursday.

One of his most revealing comments on leadership came around the raid on the Pakistan compound in 2011 and the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

He explained that issues only arrived on the Oval Office desk if they "were not entirely solvable".

As an example, he said it was still only a 55-45 chance that bin Laden was in the compound and not, say, a Pakistan general. "Once you are in the situation, you have to take the lead."

It was one of the moments Hosking described as a revelation.

"What we didn't know, is that even with all that intel, the best in the world, when he pulled trigger... he assessed it was Bin Laden at 55/45," Hosking said.

Saving Chrysler and General Motors was another example of leadership.

"It was just after the [Global Financial Crisis] and Chrysler and [General Motors] were falling over. Obama decided to save them, while most people in America thought he shouldn't, very free market oriented.

"Obama thought different. He lost badly politically, but in hindsight we can see he did the right thing. It is a classic example of strong, bold leadership. "

Guests told the New Zealand Herald that Obama had said China, and in particular President Xi Jinping, were starting to understand the critical role it played as a superpower after years of being somewhat of a free-riding country on the back of globalisation and moves such as its ascendancy to the WTO.

He implied China had to do more to step up, especially on issues such as the South China Sea dispute.

Obama steered clear of any references to his successor Donald Trump, and Russia.

He did say that, as a leader, it was important to look at the bigger picture. He recounted looking at the starry night in Northland last night, and remembering there were more stars - and associated planets - than grains of sand. In particularly stressful periods, he would remind staff of this.

He finished the night by quoting Martin Luther King - a comment that he said continues to give him hope and confidence: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

In a final assessment, Mike describing the night as “so bland, so general, so open to the possibility of brilliance yet lacking the delivery of brilliance one could only feel disappointed.

"There was not a single story told last night. At not one point did Obama go, 'Actually that reminds me of the time I went to China'.

"How many people has he met, places been, seen and experienced, and he could have told them a way only Obama could. Obama is one of the greatest orators of our generation - how alive could he have been.

"Ultimately, at end of the night, what a shame."

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