NPR logo Obama, Harper And Calderon: The Three Amigos (Or Musketeers)


Obama, Harper And Calderon: The Three Amigos (Or Musketeers)

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, center, and President Barack Obama attend a news conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, Monday, Aug. 10, 2009. Alex Brandon/AP Photo hide caption

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Alex Brandon/AP Photo

If there were any tensions between the so-called Three Amigos, the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, they were hard to spot at the press conference that ended the short summit in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Indeed, the Three Amigos seemed like the Three Musketeers in the one-for-all, all-for-one approach they maintained through their entire meeting with the media today.

Example: Ginger Thompson of the New York Times asked President Felipe Calderon of Mexico what he thought of the criticism that the U.S. hadn't asserted itself enough to reinstall Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

President Barack Obama acknowledged the question wasn't for him but answered it anyway:

The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we're always intervening and Yankees need to get out of Latin America. You can't have it both ways.

Calderon then said, as translated:

I coincide in the contradiction highlighted by President Obama. Those who have rejected or have argumented (sic) about the intervention of the United States in the region are those who now are claiming for the determination — or the intervention of the U.S. in the region, no matter how legal this action might be.

A few minutes later, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had his turn:

I'm just going to also weigh in a little bit, as a friend of the United States, on that question that was posed to President Obama. If I were an American, I would be really fed up with this kind of hypocrisy.

You know, the United States is accused of meddling except when it's accused of not meddling.

That was pretty much the mood of the entire press conference.

In terms of what the leaders wanted to make available for public consumption, there weren't any major policy pronouncements. Instead, their goal seemed to demonstrate that they stood in solidarity, whatever the very real disagreements between them, on issues of trade or immigration.

For instance, a Canadian reporter asked Obama a tricky, health-care related question. Given how the Canadian health-care system had become something of a "political football" in the U.S., the reporter asked, was there anything in the Canadian system to emulate?

Obama didn't take the bait on what was esentially a "Do you still beat your wife" question. Instead, he repeated a line he has used in the past about the Canadian model working for Canada but that it wouldn't work in the U.S.

Then he encouraged Canadians to take with a grain of salt anything nasty they should hear Americans say about the Canadian health care in the next few months.

So I suspect that we're going to have continued vigorous debate. I suspect that you Canadians will continue to get dragged in by those who oppose reform, even though I've said nothing about Canadian health-care reform. I don't find Canadians particularly scary, but I guess some of the opponents of reform think that they make a good bogeyman.

There was the expected discussion about how the three nations' pledges of mutual aid on security issues, including fighting the Mexican drug cartels and swine flu, and how productive their trade conversations.

But those were just extensions of the main theme — that the three leaders, the two conservatives from Canada and Mexico, stood shoulder to shoulder with their more liberal moderate counterpart from the U.S.