At the end of this week, the group of the world’s eight leading economies will converge on Camp David for President Obama’s hosted summit on a broad range of economic, political and security issues.
After Obama begins Friday with a keynote address to the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, the G-8 nations will be joined by Obama’s special guests for special discussions on food security in Africa: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ghana’s President John Mills, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Benin President Yayi Boni, who is the current chairman of the African Union.
Then it’s on to Chicago for the NATO summit, where Obama will stand on his home turf to lead discussions about three key agenda items agreed upon in conversations last week with Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Afghanistan, defense capabilities, and partnerships.
“Recognizing the important contributions provided by partner nations, the President and Secretary General welcomed the recent decision by allies to invite a group of thirteen partner nations to Chicago for an unprecedented meeting to discuss ways to further broaden and deepen NATO’s cooperation with partner nations,” the White House said last Wednesday.
All told, the package of events promises to be like an Obama campaign event with world leaders.
For an election ostensibly focused on the economy, the Obama campaign has taken early hits against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on foreign policy.
In what was billed as one of his major campaign addresses, Vice President Joe Biden even seemed to roll out the NATO summit red carpet at an April foreign policy address at New York University.
“Under President Obama’s leadership, our alliances have never been stronger. He returned Europe to its rightful place as a partner of first resort in dealing with global threats, while at the same time reclaiming America’s place in Asia as an Asian Pacific power — a region where U.S. exports are producing new jobs and driving our economic recovery,” Biden said. “We’ve forged a new relationship based on mutual interest with emerging powers like China, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa — all of which are helping advance American security.”
With numerous swipes at Romney charging a “profound misunderstanding” of a commander in chief’s responsibilities, that speech will instead go down in history as one of the better Biden gaffes: “I promise you the president has a big stick. I promise you,” Biden said in reference to Teddy Roosevelt’s mantra.
Then came the Osama bin Laden gloat and even the commercial, days before the first anniversary of the al-Qaeda leader’s death, that suggested Romney wouldn’t have taken out the world’s most wanted terrorist.
Obama’s defense of that ad turned a joint press conference with Japan’s leader, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan, into a campaign event all its own.
“As far as my personal role and what other folks would do, I’d just recommend that everybody take a look at people’s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question about whether the grave-dancing was going a little far. “I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That’s been at least my practice. I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they’d do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.”
The anniversary and the campaign relevance provided the perfect opportunity to secretly fly to Afghanistan to sign a transitional agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and address the nation during primetime from Bagram Air Base.