President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were guests Tuesday on ABC’s “The View,” the talk show with the numerous female hosts. It’s an appearance the First Couple taped Monday after they arrived in New York for the opening of the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.
Mr. Obama also found time to jam in a quick appearance on NBC’s “Today” to talk education policy. But he hasn’t scheduled a one-on-one meeting with any of the foreign leaders who’ve come to New York for the UN festivities.
Critics have hit this state of affairs hard, saying that Obama is slighting foreign policy in favor of fluffy shows that aid his reelection effort. In particular they’ve complained about the fact that Obama declined a meeting request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The president’s unwillingness to meet with Bibi Netanyahu when he is in New York but instead willing to go on the ‘The View’ in New York – I mean, I think it speaks volumes to the lack of seriousness with which the president is taking the current situation,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia in a Monday conference call organized by the Romney campaign.
First, we’d agree that “The View” appearance is reelection-related. As our colleague Gloria Goodale noted yesterday, softer news-like talk shows have become a favorite venue for the Obama campaign. They’re friendlier than a press conference, and guests benefit from the good feelings viewers have toward their favorite shows.
On "The View," for instance, Barack and Michelle got to indulge in a little First Couple Nick-and-Nora (look it up) banter about whether Michelle should run for office. Barack indicated she wasn’t temperamentally suited for the job, and, uh, Michelle agreed she’s not patient.
The president got to ruminate about what he’d do after his term, saying he’d like to work with young people. He talked guardedly about the murder of the US ambassador in Libya, walking right up to the edge of calling it a pre-planned terrorist attack.
Obama’s campaign team was probably pretty happy with the whole thing.
Second, we think the Netanyahu meeting is a separate issue. Obama did not turn that down due to time pressure. He did not want to do it for policy reasons. Now, one can argue about that – Romney says Obama is snubbing one of our most important allies – but “The View” really has little to do with that dispute.
As to meeting other leaders, Obama’s missing a chance to develop deeper personal relationships. An in-depth story in today’s New York Times notes that’s something Obama lacks in the Middle East in particular.
So yes, that may be a negative. But if you’re Obama, you may be thinking that the election is in six weeks, and if you lose, it doesn’t matter if your ties to the Saudi royal family are on the upswing.
Thus Obama is spending only 24 hours in the Big Apple. He spent Monday night at a UN reception where many other world leaders were present, noted White House spokesman Jay Carney. Tuesday he gave the traditional high-profile UN opening address by a US president.
“It’s a real moment for the US to assert its values and its leadership role,” Carney said Monday at a press briefing.
So what's the president doing instead of hanging around New York? On Wednesday, he heads out (surprise!) on the campaign trail. He’ll be going to Ohio, the most important of the battleground states in the 2012 election.