By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Oct. 1, 2009 – The president held a meeting with his national security team Wednesday to discuss the progress and the challenges the U.S. is facing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today he’ll leave for Copenhagen to plug the U.S. as the host of the 2016 Olympics.
First lady Michelle Obama stops to talk to waiting reporters as Pat Ryan, third right, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Chicago 2016 looks on. Mrs. Obama meets with International Olympic Committee (IOC) members in Copenhagen,Wednesday as part of the Chicago 2016 bid team who are competing with Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro for the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The OIC will vote on Friday, Oct. 2, in Copenhagen. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Critics this week have charged the president is spreading himself too thin and that he needs to stay put and worry about health care reform, two wars and the economy.
Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told reporters Tuesday, “I think at a time of recession, at a time where Americans have expressed rather significantly their concerns and frustrations over the course of the spring and summer about health care, about the economy, about a host of domestic issues, even international issues, I think that this trip, while nice, is not necessary for the president.”
But the White House disagrees. During Wednesday’s press briefing, Robert Gibbs, the president’s press secretary, was asked if all the issues with Iran, Afghanistan, and health care created an “extraordinary week.” Gibbs said, the administration has been juggling a number of issues since taking office on January 21, and this week was no exception.
“I think this has been an extraordinary eight months. What did we wake up to on the 21st of January? An economy that was sliding off the cliff; a banking system that your paper had written about that could fail; any number of international challenges,” Gibbs said.
On Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner added his voice to the chorus of critics. “Listen, I think it’s a great idea to promote Chicago, but he’s the president of the United States, not the mayor of Chicago.
“And the problems we have here at home affect all Americans and that’s where his attention ought to be,” Boehner said.
One of those important issues is how the U.S. deals with al Qaeda. It was the topic of a closed door meeting with the president and his national security team. Few details were released, but the White House released a brief summary stating, “As the U.S. aggressively confronts al Qaeda and its leadership around the world, the President has set a clear goal in Afghanistan: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and their extremist allies.”
“When it comes to decisions as important as keeping this country safe and putting our troops into harm’s way, the President has made it clear that he will rigorously assess our progress.”
The president will join the first lady in Copenhagen Thursday, but it’s doubtful his critics will go away. It’s also doubtful his absence for a few days will be more than symbolic in asserting he isn’t working on other issues at hand.
What do you think? Should the president be promoting the Olympics coming to the U.S. or minding the store here in Washington?