Two challenges that could threaten the credibility and sustainability of the G-20, and its potential as an enduring global leadership forum into the future, are:
1. The growing intensity of political polarization and anxiety among ordinary citizens.
2. The unclear willingness of governments of major economies to agree on a long-term roadmap of collectively consistent and mutually reinforcing polices that provide a feasible pathway for global recovery.
The G-20 Seoul International Symposium held in late September 2010, organized by the Brookings Institution and the Korea Development Institute (KDI), anticipated these threats. Global rebalancing is seen to be a daunting political challenge for the sovereignty of nations, an institutional problem for the effectiveness of multilateral surveillance and a difficult economic policy issue. And an entire segment of the conference was devoted to public attitudes in G-20 countries (Bruce Stokes, National Journal), domestic leadership in a polarized and globalized world (Thomas Mann, Brookings), and leadership, publics and communications (Wendy Sherman, Albright Stonebridge Group), with prominent journalists (Alan Beattie, Financial Times, and Paul Blustein, formerly with the Washington Post) contributing to the discussion.
I think it's unusual for the chief of staff to go on a trip, particularly on a trip this long. The chief of staff is usually more of a chief operating officer in the White House itself, and normally when your principal—whether it's the president himself or the head of Cabinet agency—goes abroad, you have his deputy and those folks staying behind to help manage operations in his absence.