The Sketch: I came. I saw. But big BO didn't conquer

  • @SimonSketch

A colleague in front of me at the press conference had been in the States and seen Obama during the presidential elections.

It had been in a packed, ecstatic basketball hall and the candidate did the business he was famous for. The blind saw, the halt walked and demons – or George Bush as he was known at the time – got cast out.

Whatever he's doing now, he isn't doing that. Despite my residual, debilitating cynicism, I was hoping to levitate just a little in the presence of the Big B.O. But it wasn't ever going to happen. Actually, even the American press corps didn't stand up when he came in (we all jeer quietly when they do).

He was so normal he was ordinary. If he didn't have a nuclear trigger in his briefcase you would have left the press conference early.

My notes show very lean pickings. "This meeting will reflect an enormous consensus to work in concert," he'd said. I hoped it was a slip of the tongue. But he also praised our PM's "integrity" and told him: "The most important thing is to be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning." Is it? Really?

"Basing decisions round fear is not the right way to go." Now hang on just a second there. Fear is the thing just now. Fear is king! Scoff at fear at your peril! An American journalist asked him whether we the public should spend or save.

They don't like these simple questions, succinctly put. He spent the next five minutes saying "It depends".

Nick Robinson's question noted that Gordon Brown had been telling us all year that the recession was born in the USA. That was funny. Would he apologise?

Barack said he was "less interested in assigning blame than in finding a solution".

So he'll continue Bill Clinton's policy of dangling unaffordable mortgages in front of people who'd never be able to repay them? Let's ask him that next time.

He also said it wasn't just a question of solving this crisis but of "making sure another one never happens again". Do you know, I really think he was promising an end to boom and bust.

It may be too early but it will soon be worth asking: "Is he actually any good?"

Later in the day, an impish Sarkozy and that sturdy old sausage Ms Merkel gave a press conference of their own. They spoke about history, the need for compromise, why they wouldn't compromise, that they weren't blaming anyone, that they were going to build a new world tomorrow but that the day after would be too late.

I think they were saying there wasn't going to be a walkout. "When it comes to historic moments," the French President said, "you can't circumvent them." But I bet you can.