Obama meets the high-tech kings (and a queen); but my favorite Obama meeting this week was the one with Manny Pacquiao

In the twitterverse came the comment that people were lining up last night in Woodside awaiting President Obama. Surely, they must have shipped in from Redwood City and such.

People in Woodside don’t line up for much.  In fact, the line comes to them.

So it was quite natural for the president to fly in for dinner with the nation’s high-tech giants on their home turf Thursday.

Whenever you accept an invite to Woodside, you never know how much it ultimately is going to mean to you.  A million? A billion?

I hope it worked out for the president sake, for the country’s sake, last night.

The U.S. could use a few trillion.

There’s something about Obama when he hits the road. You forget about all the process stuff in Washington that’s bogging him down and you see him in his natural mode of rock-star schmoozer.


Earlier this week, I commented in the Philippine media on another Obama meeting, the one with Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in DC. It was far more important a meeting than you think.

About two years ago, when he was just thinking about politics and a run for Congress, I called the boxer Manny Pacquiao the Philippines’ Obama.

At the time, Obama was in campaign mode, attracting large  crowds world-wide. He was like a rock-star representing hope and change. But I’ve seen them both in action, and Pacquiao was all that in boxing trunks.

I didn’t exactly call him the Great Brown Hope, but I sure wasn’t joking when I called him the Philippines’ Obama.
There’s just something about Pacquiao that suggests his ultimate reach will be far beyond the ring.

My assessment had less to do with Pacquiao as Obama’s intellectual equal (I don’t know how many rounds Pacquiao could last at Harvard Law School, for example), and everything to do with the sheer charismatic leadership prowess of the Pac-man.

Is there any doubt that Pacquiao could go toe to toe with anyone on that score?

So when the two men—Pacquiao and Obama—finally met this week in the White House’s Oval Office, I thought it was far more significant than any meeting Obama has had with a Philippine leader during his administration. (You don’t think that red-dress photo op with Arroyo a few years back was worth a darn, do you?)

That makes it both funny and sad, that in these times, the current president of the Philippines would barely make a headline were he to drop in on Obama. But the pound-for-for-pound champ? He caused a traffic accident just crossing Pennsylvania Ave.

Obama even had a few gifts and a promise for the Pac-Man this week, reportedly giving Pacquiao  three grocery bags full of light blue M&M’s with the presidential seal (breakfast of champions?), a watch with the same august logo,  and a promise of visiting the Philippines in the future.

Why not? When Obama goes to Oahu, he’s just a relative short hop to Manila.

Would he do that for PNoy just to say hello?

Doubt it.

But the Philippine president shouldn’t feel bad. I doubt Obama would make a trip to Manila for anyone but Pacquiao.

That’s why this shouldn’t be dismissed as a mere cute meet just to promote an upcoming fight. This is how relationships are forged. And in politics, relationships are everything. Those who focus on wonky policy matters and dismiss Pacquiao as a mere bobbing-head-jock-figure are missing the potential of Pacquiao’s real political potential. You can always surround yourself with the right policy folks, which will be a critical thing for Pacquiao.

Far more important is leadership, and that has nothing to do with policy nor ideology. It’s  all about charisma and the people.

If Egypt had a Pacquiao, that uprising would have been over in a week. But when all the opposition could do was trot out an ElBaradei?  Come on.

Leadership and charisma count for a lot more than you think.

You might have noticed it last year when PNoy trounced a relatively lackluster field, and even Joseph Estrada got votes. When you have the people abdicating to the political class, the oligarchs start recycling themselves and wearing yellow T-shirts.

That leaves the future wide open for new politico to excite the public.  And who among them has as legitimate claim to being man of the people besides the people’s champ himself?

Pacquiao still has sometime before a run for the presidency. He’s doing his time in the woodshed but it shouldn’t be for long. In the meantime, he’s going to have to stop fighting, period, no matter how good the money. He’s got a whole country riding on his shoulders.

Just keep in mind, if all you see is a guy in boxing trunks, you don’t understand the real power of  Manny Pacquiao.