While campaign needs appear to have prompted President Obama to avoid meeting individually with any world leaders in New York City during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, George W. Bush’s reelection drive did not preclude him from sitting down with several of his foreign counterparts in 2004 to try to hash through international problems.
Bush held at least three bilateral meetings with world leaders in 2004, meeting with the prime ministers of India, Japan and Iraq. Bush even held a press conference with the Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, and attended and spoke at the annual luncheon given by the secretary general, which Obama is skipping.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney offered no explanation to reporters Monday about why Obama was eschewing bilateral meetings with world leaders during a time of particular crisis throughout the world.
But an Obama campaign adviser admitted to the New York Times that Obama’s campaign schedule didn’t have room for diplomacy:
A campaign adviser acknowledged privately that in this election year, campaigning trumped meetings with world leaders. “Look, if he met with one leader, he would have to meet with 10,” the aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Obama did find time to appear on an episode of “The View” Monday after he arrived in New York City.
Obama may also not have wanted to open the door up to having Gov. Mitt Romney insist that, out of fairness, the world leaders who met with Obama must meet with him too, according to Republican national security expert KT McFarland.
McFarland, who spoke on Fox News, said photo ops with world leaders would give Romney a chance to increase his stature.