Members of the G-20 are descending on Washington for an emergency economic summit called by President Bush. But the guy they will be working with for the next four years has opted to stay in Chicago for the week. Via the NYT:
Foreign affairs veterans said Mr. Obama was trying to play it safe and avoid being forced to take positions on matters he is not authorized to decide, much less take ownership for the problems and decisions of Mr. Bush.
There is also the danger of Obama's being put on the spot to opine about a policy area where he and President Bush disagree.
President-elect Obama has not been living in a diplomacy bubble since his election; in fact, he's been busily returning congratulatory phone calls with world leaders since last week's victory (yesterday's call list included the Presidents of Brazil and Kenya; the Prime Minister of India; the King of Jordan; and Pope Benedict XVI). But Obama's transition team, sticking to their "one President at a time" message, is steering him clear of official, in-person meetings with foreign heads of state for the time being.
That's not to say the Obama forces are ignoring this opportunity to make contact with some of the world's most influential governments during their visit to the U.S. The Obama transition team announced today that the President- and VP-elect are making available the bipartisan duo of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach (a moderate Republican who supported Obama in the general election and spoke at this year's Democratic convention) to have "unofficial meetings to seek input from visiting delegations" on the incoming administration's behalf.
In a release from the transition communications squad, senior foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said:
This weekend's summit is an important opportunity to hear from the leaders of many of the world's largest economies. President Bush should be commended for calling the summit. There is one President at a time in the United States, so the President-elect has asked Secretary Albright and Congressman Leach, an experienced and bipartisan team, to be available meet with and listen to our friends and allies on his behalf.
Obama and Biden will receive a briefing from Albright and Leach after the meetings.