Domestic Issues Keep Obama From Diplomacy

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Issues such as health care, jobs and the economy have consumed President Obama's schedule over the past year. NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says that has left Obama with little room for diplomacy abroad.


Domestic issues, including health care and the economy, have consumed President Obamas schedule over the past year thats left little time for diplomacy abroad.

And senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says it shows.

DANIEL SCHORR: Traditionally, presidents turn to diplomacy abroad as a relief from fractious contest at home. Unfortunately for President Obama, most of his foreign engagements in his first year plus have turned out unhappily.

Early in his tenure, the president, who has honed his conciliation skills on community organizing, extended a friendly hand to adversaries around the world, starting with Iran. But every effort to dissuade the regime in Tehran from its nuclear enrichment program has so far failed. When the United States set a deadline for action, Iran responded with a mocking counter deadline.

Now, the president threatens diplomatic and economic sanctions. But as to a military response, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been urging not a word. That has contributed to usual tension between Washington and Jerusalem. And efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process lied dead in the water.

Unlike Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons, the hermit state of North Korea has nuclear weapons. Periodically, it agrees to discuss them and periodically it returns to testing them. The war in Afghanistan drags on and a timetable for a phased withdrawal of American troops may be called into question. The same in Iraq, where a sectarian war aimed mainly against the Shiites exacts a steady toll.

The presidents widely acclaimed Cairo address to the Islamic world has not brought any great abatement in radicalization in the Islamic region. Normally, the White House could count on warm relations, at least with our European allies, no longer. Mr. Obama has no particular tie to leaders of Britain, France and Germany. And when the White House cancel a scheduled trip to Madrid for a European Summit meeting, the Spanish newspaper El Pais headlined, Obama Turns His Back On Europe.

President Obama came into office coasting on a wave of international approval, even adulation, that seemed to augur well for the exercise of soft power to overcome some of the long standing conflicts passed on by the Bush administration.

But in a year, Mr. Obama has found most of these problems resisting his efforts. And with diplomacy apparently no fun, he seems to have withdrawn to more familiar conflicts like jobs and deficits.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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