President Barack Obama has not planned a single meeting with foreign leaders who are visiting New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly.
He has already received criticism for failing to make time in his election campaign schedule to meet Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but now it is clear he will not meet any of the other world leaders who are descending on the Big Apple for the annual event.
Now Obama is being slammed from both the right and the left for finding time to meet with the ladies of television’s “The View” but not with Britain’s David Cameron, Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi, France’s Francois Hollande, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai or any of the 120 leaders in town.
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Reuters described it as a trip with “Whoopi but no Bibi” referring to The View’s Whoopi Goldberg and Israel’s Netanyahu. The news service pointed out that foreign policy — especially a possible Israel strike on Iran in the next few weeks — “poses a greater risk to Obama's prospects for a second term,” than any other issue.
Campaigning needs seem to be the only reason for Obama’s decision to forego one-on-one meetings. Last year he scheduled a dozen.
“There really isn't a full explanation that's been forthcoming other than the president has a busy schedule,” ABC News’ Jake Tapper said on Fox News’ On the Record.
Republican rival Mitt Romney was quick to attack Obama for failing to meet other world leaders, especially those from Israel and Arab nations. "We want a president who will shape events in the Middle East," he said.
Romney hit out at Obama’s comment on Sunday night’s “60 Minutes” that recent events in the Middle East have been little more than “bumps in the road.”
“The world looks at the events going on," Romney said at a campaign event Monday in Pueblo, Colo. "They don't see these events as bumps in the road. These are lives. This is humanity. This is freedom."
Obama addressed the General Assembly on Tuesday morning, but that was likely to be the full extent of his participation, as he left bilateral meetings to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Time magazine said, “Blink and you may miss President Barack Obama’s appearance at the annual U.N. General Assembly this week. The President plans to make the briefest visit by a U.S. President in recent memory.”
“President Obama’s display of indifference to the most basic function of his job—national security—would at least until this Administration have been absolutely unimaginable,” wrote Helle Dale on The Heritage Network blog, The Foundry.
“But even for a celebrity-hound like Obama, the contrast between the severity of the crisis facing the nation and the president’s set of priorities is beyond belief.”
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said the move was “odd” and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer called Obama's schedule a “missed opportunity.”
On MSNBC, Todd noted the president “won’t have a single one-on-one meeting with a world leader on his schedule. Not anybody.”
“The White House also argues that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice will hold meetings,” Todd said, according to Politico, after airing a clip of Fox News’s Chris Wallace pressing Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs about the president's schedule. “But folks it is odd to have a president come to the United Nations and not have any bilaterals. Granted it is a campaign year, but still odd considering what’s going on in the Middle East.”
Blitzer, meanwhile, told CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield that appearing on "The View" was determined by the president's campaign to be "an important thing for the president to do only six weeks before an election. Same reason why Mitt Romney the other day went on Kelly Ripa’s show.”
But skipping bilateral meetings may be a mistake, Blitzer said.
“I do think that there potentially is a missed opportunity this week for the President of the United States to meet with some world leaders, but he’s made the decision that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with those world leaders, not him” Blitzer said.
When asked on Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would run into leaders at a reception and continues to stay in touch with them by phone.
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Carney stressed that Obama had had lengthy phone conversations with the leaders of Egypt, Libya and Yemen over unrest in the Middle East.
During Tuesday’s address to the General Assembly, Obama said the time for diplomacy was running out when it came to dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” he said. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
On the attacks on American embassies and the killing of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Obama said, “There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.”
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