For pals with problems, President Clinton was quick with a compliment or a favor and didn't ask much in return. Even after advocating sanctions against India, he stood back and didn't make a fuss when allies proved reluctant.
Clinton's hand at this annual summit was weakened by his failure to get three big pieces of international legislation through Congress. He also has problems with allies - France and Russia in particular - about how to handle troublesome issues such as Iraq. Washington and Moscow also are divided over bloodshed in Kosovo, expanding NATO and other issues.Start to finish, Clinton turned his six-day European trip into a goodwill tour where friendships were emphasized and criticism was toned down or forgotten. He was the conciliator, not the challenger.
Perhaps that was because of embarrassing setbacks at home.
The Republican-led Congress has blocked his requests for money for the International Monetary Fund and for overdue bills at the United Nations. And opposition from his own party forced Clinton to set aside a request for international trade powers.
In addition, he has been unable to shake off investigations of an alleged relationship with a former White House intern, foreign contributions to his 1996 campaign and the lengthy probe of Whitewater finances.
"I think it means that a president who should be going there at the top of his game, running the strongest economy the world has seen for decades, is a little less strong than he otherwise would be, is a little less persuasive than he otherwise would be," said Robert Hormats, vice president for international affairs at the Goldman Sachs investment firm. "He clearly is the strongest leader there, but he's a little less strong because of that." Hormats was the chief U.S. planner for eight summits.
While still the world's dominant power, the United States has lost some of its clout since the end of the Cold War. Western nations that once followed Washington's lead are no longer dependent on U.S. might for protection and are more inclined to go their own way.