Yves Smith notes a distinct and growing American coolness to the G20 meeting. She says that "the most convincing explanation" of Bush's "out-of-character gesture" to go multilateral is "that it was in response to a request by Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been very keen to strengthen international regulation, and has also been particularly helpful to the US president." But now Bush is having second thoughts, and Obama, by refusing to attend himself and sending only second-tier representatives, has issued a clear signal that he is not ready to be rushed into any major commitments before he has full control of the federal apparatus. The situation is rather reminiscent of the 1932 interregnum, when the lame duck Hoover attempted to enlist the support of the newly elected FDR for a program he, Hoover, had set in motion only to be told by the new president, in effect, to go to hell.
Whatever is going on on the American side, the outcome may well prove to be an embarrassment for Sarkozy. Addicted to the adrenaline rush of the effet d'annonce and basking in his newfound glory (and domestic popularity) as an international power broker, he risks becoming the fall guy if the talks prove to be an embarrassment or, worse, fizzle in such a way as to send global markets reeling in yet another downward spiral. At home it's possible to dangle reforms in front of the public with impunity, but messing with the guts of international finance might well turn out to be a more dangerous game.