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Obama Ducks Financial Crisis, Again   November 12th, 2008
Didn't join McCain in September, Won't join Bush and world leaders now       


More observations...

Thinking back a few months, when the financial crisis first erupted presidential candidate John McCain announced he would suspend his campaign to return to Washington to participate in the financial bailout talks . Obama, at that time, declined to suspend his campaign and join McCain in doing their jobs as senators. Now, Obama appears to be ducking another opportunity to address the financial crisis with President Bush and other world leaders.


The leaders of 19 foreign powers, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, converge on Washington on Friday for an emergency economic summit meeting hosted by President Bush. Although invited, Mr. Obama has opted to stay in Chicago and will not meet any of the leaders separately.

Coming so soon after last week's election, the summit meeting has proved an uncomfortable moment for the president-elect and an early test of his handling of international diplomacy. Even as aides are still closing his campaign headquarters and just beginning to assemble a governing team, they are fending off interest from foreign governments eager to take the measure of the next president and trying to avoid tying him to the departing administration.

Several Obama advisers, in separate interviews, all used the word 'awkward' to describe the situation. But Robert Gibbs , a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said: 'While some may say it's awkward that he's not there, it would be far more problematic to be there. We firmly believe there is only one president at a time.'

While I can see the argument of "there's only one president at a time," I think it rings hollow. The current president is a lame duck president that, although he approved the financial bailout, seems to have differing views than Obama as how to handle it. This is a time of transition and given the critical economic situation, it's likely that President Bush would potentially yield to--if not at the very least compromise and consider--Obama's future position in the interest of consistency moving forward. It makes no sense for leaders of the world to negotiate with President Bush to plot a way forward only to have Obama change course in two months.

And, as was the case when Obama declined to join McCain in addressing a real crisis, this is not the first time that Obama has avoided participating substantively in addressing the problem. What came off as a "calm considered" response compared to McCain's "erratic" reaction to the crisis in September is now starting to appear as a distinct pattern of avoiding the crisis entirely.

Obama is right that there's only one president at a time. However, the transition is a period of time where a smooth "hand-off" is supposed to occur. Some very important world leaders are coming to Washington to address the most important issue of the day and they want to meet with the future president of the United States, and rightfully so.

I don't think I'm being overly critical when I suggest that rather than not trying to step on President Bush's toes, it's really starting to look like Obama is avoiding stepping in the minefield of leadership on a delicate subject. And I suspect other countries are already measuring Obama on this, not just me.

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