Critics at home rain on Obama's parade

By Guy Adams

It had all gone so perfectly to his PR team's plan, from the gentle Q&A sessions to the convivial handshakes. Then President Barack Obama hit the dance-floor.

The President's spontaneous demonstration of dancing prowess met with a mixed reaction from the folks back home.

To some, Obama's performance of a "Koli" dance, which expresses the culture and identity of Maharashtrian fishing communities, proved that he retains the common touch. It was greeted with wild applause by his delighted hosts, who are celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of light.

But to others, particularly in the right-wing United States circles where the President's every move is now subject to ridicule and outrage, the spectacle was like a red rag to a bull. Critics carped about the alleged disloyalty of a US leader celebrating Diwali, and compared his cheerful demeanour to that of the Roman Emperor Nero.

The Press Trust of India described Michelle Obama as a quick learner who matched the Koli dance steps with the children with great elan. It was more diplomatic about the President, saying: "He took a little time to adjust himself to the steps."

A pooled report shared among White House correspondents, who use the acronym "Flotus" (First Lady of the United States) to describe Michelle Obama (the President is "Potus") was more sceptical.

"When the kids beckoned, Flotus jumped up to join, Potus resisted," it read. "His wife did a remarkable job keeping up with the kids. Then Potus gave in, did some not terribly graceful shuffling, then threw in the towel and gathered the kids around for photos. The damage was done, however. Great film."

Back in the US, the tour is being described as a "holiday" by right-wing commentators. Some say it is a waste of public funds, although the White House described claims that it is costing US$200 million a day (more than the war in Afghanistan) as "wildly inflated" and "false."


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