President Obama gave an impassioned address Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly, but his words mean nothing without action. In his 30-minute speech, he explained and defended Americans right to freedom of speech, while vowing to help foster democracy in Arab states despite violent uprisings. He also declared that the United States “will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Yet Obama is not scheduled to have a single bilateral meeting with any world leaders. This sends a bad message and shows poor judgment and lack of leadership. The New York Times called it “something like drive-by diplomacy.”
This is contrast to last year’s U.N. General Assembly gathering where Obama had at least 13 bilateral meetings, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller. Perhaps Obama’s busy election-year schedule is taking lead over his duties as president.
The dirty work has been left to Clinton, who has been taking Obama’s place at meetings. Clinton is the Secretary of State, not the head of state. Phone conversations are no substitute for face-to-face meetings, and they are not how foreign relations happen.
The recent wave of anti-U.S. violence and protests, and the death of U.S. ambassador and four other Americans on Sept. 11 in Benghazi, proves that these meetings are important and necessary.
The president should have cancelled or postponed his taped appearance Monday on ABC’s daytime talk show, The View. It’s bad taste to leave bilateral meetings with world leaders to shoot an episode with Whoopi Goldberg and the other ladies of The View. It makes the American public reevaluate where Obama’s priorities lie.
Campaigning should not trump foreign policy. We need President Obama, not candidate Obama.