Benjamin Netanyahu is out of luck, it appears. Barack Obama's packed schedule won't permit an in-person meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister this week in New York, but it will make time for Whoopi Goldberg's couch:
So Obama's going to show up at the United Nations to deliver a speech (what a novel concept) then bounce out of there without meeting privately with any of the dozens of world leaders in attendance -- at least one of whom has urgently requested such a discussion. He'll instead meet face to face with key strategic allies Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg on 'The View,' a daily syndicated chat show aimed at female viewers. Who needs meaningful closed-door meetings with Middle Eastern leaders when telephones exist? Certainly not Obama. Don't these people realize there's an election on? Even the Associated Press raises an eyebrow, calling out the president for his abdication of leadership, noting that Obama's two immediate predecessors managed to prioritize diplomacy during contested re-election seasons:
The world's leaders are gathering in New York, but President Barack Obama has no plans to meet privately with any of them. He will make time for "The View," a freewheeling TV talk show more likely to reach voters than Obama would with the diplomacy he is skipping at the United Nations. Just six weeks until the election, the realities and priorities of campaign politics hang prominently over Obama's final turn on the world stage before facing voters. Unlike his predecessors, he is skipping the face-to-face meetings with counterparts where much of the U.N. works gets done ... Both Presidents George W. Bush in 2004 and Bill Clinton in 1996, though, held a series of meetings with foreign leaders during U.N. visits in their re-election years. The Obama White House opted not to jam in a few and risk offending the allies who were left out, administration officials said.
Reuters doesn't mince words:
When Obama speaks inside the cavernous U.N. General Assembly hall on Tuesday exactly six weeks before the U.S. election, he will seek to reassure American voters as well as world leaders he is on top of the latest global challenges. But he won't propose any new remedies or bold initiatives. There will be close scrutiny of how far he goes in talking tough about Iran's nuclear program - but even on that point, aides say privately he will not break new policy ground. Obama's final turn on the world stage before facing voters will be a reflection of where his priorities lie. Despite simmering global crises, he will skip traditional private meetings with foreign counterparts and squeeze his U.N. visit into just 24 hours so he can jump back on the campaign trail.
"A reflection of where his priorities lie," indeed. He'll give a flowery foreign policy speech devoid of any "new remedies or bold initiatives," then it's off to Ohio, or wherever -- before jetting back to New York for Whoopi & Co. It goes without saying that this decision comes on the heels of two tumultuous and frightening weeks. The world has witnessed a massive international crisis, with US interests threatened, multiple US embassies breached, and American diplomats murdered in cold blood, due in part to egregious security failures. The Commander-in-Chief's choice to skip town rather than do the pressing work his job demands comes from a man who just told a television audience last week that his "number one priority" is keeping US diplomats and embassies safe. This week marks an obvious opportunity to shore up alliances and pressure certain leaders on these points, yet the president is taking a pass on aggressively pursuing his "number one priority." Strange, isn't it? Not at all, actually: It is abundantly clear what really influences Barack Obama's schedule more than anything else. I'll leave you with an excerpt from a front-page New York Times story published yesterday. In the clip above, Robert Gibbs says that Obama spent some time on the phone with Egypt's new president this week. I wonder who did most of the talking:
On the eve of his first trip to the United States as’s new Islamist president, said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger. A former leader of the and Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi sought in a 90-minute interview with The New York Times to introduce himself to the American public and to revise the terms of relations between his country and the United States after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, an autocratic but reliable ally. He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability. If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values. And he dismissed criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to condemn protesters who recently climbed over the United States Embassy wall and burned the American flag in anger over a video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
During the Arab Spring protests in Egypt -- which the Obama administration vocally supported -- the Muslim Brotherhood assured jittery Westerners that the Islamist organization would not seek to win the Egyptian presidency in the first election after a potential democracy was established. Today we have President Morsi, a former leader of...the Muslim Brotherhood. Surprise. It sounds as though Morsi spent his phone call with our president explaining how things are going to be from now on. It's up to us, you see, to "show greater respect" for Islamists' "values." And Morsi made clear to the Times that he isn't much interested in the criticisms of this administration. Morsi could use a forceful American reality check. He won't get one from America's top campaigner.
UPDATE - In an interview with 60 Minutes last night, Obama dismissed Netanyahu's attempts to get the US government to commit to red lines on Iran's nuclear program as "noise:"
The president also referred to Israel as "one of" our closest allies in the region. Who else would come close, especially now that Egypt's status is in flux?
UPDATE II - MSNBC's Chuck Todd finds this all rather "odd:"