It would appear that Hillary Clinton is answering the phone after all, at least while the President and his family are enjoying their Spring Break
The President Goes on Spring Break
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Today (Saturday, March 19) French President Nicholas Sarkozy is hosting a summit of world leaders to discuss the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya. British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, will all be in attendance. When the world’s leaders sit down together, the man who should be at the head of the table, the leader of the free world, will be conspicuous by his absence. President Obama felt he had more important matters to attend to than the Libyan crisis. Last night, he and his family flew to Brazil for Spring Break.
The meeting is important because the resolution calling for the establishment of a no-fly zone is not unambiguous. While under the heading Protection of Civilians, the Security Council authorizes Member States “to take all necessary actions…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack,” the specifics of the resolution only address a no-fly zone, the enforcement of an arms embargo and an asset freeze. The wording of the paragraph dealing with the no-fly zone states that the Security Council has decided “to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians.” There is nothing in the resolution about providing support to the rebels, or requiring Gadhafi’s forces to pull back from territories (Misrata, Adjadbiya and Zawiya) recently recaptured from the rebels, something that President Obama has demanded. There is also nothing about regime change, something Secretary of State Clinton seems to be insisting on.
In addition to the policy issues that need to be resolved there are important military questions that require immediate answers. The UN authorized member states to take all necessary actions to protect civilians, “while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” What forces are to be deployed and what are going to be the rules of engagement? Prime Minister Cameron is reported to be in favor of a NATO led operation, but French President Sarkozy is reported to be in favor of an independently led military force. No one seems to know what the US is in favor of doing.
Unfolding situation in Libya
In spite of the uncertainties surrounding how to deal with the unfolding situation in Libya, and the fact that American airmen are about to be sent into harms way, what does President Obama do, he sends Hillary Clinton to the summit on Libya while he goes on Spring Break. For doing this he is praised by a supportive press. CNN White House Producer Becky Brittain, writes “amid unrest in the Middle East and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, President Obama is staying the course by pressing forward on his five-day trip to Latin America.” This will be the President’s first visit to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador and according to Brittain will provide him with the opportunity to discuss “hemispheric challenges.”
The President delayed his planned trip to Indonesia in order to stay in Washington and push for the passage of Obama care. In doing so, he screwed up his wife and daughter’s Christmas vacation plans. But the passage of his health care bill was near and dear to the President, and duty came before pleasure. Even though there is a crying need for American leadership with respect to Libya specifically and the continuing unrest in the Middle East generally, the President apparently decided that he couldn’t disrupt his family’s vacation plans again. After all, his daughters only get off from school the one week from March 18 to March 27 for Spring Break. So with the world in turmoil, The President and his family flew off to Brazil. It would be shocking to think that the President’s concern for pursuing his domestic agenda is greater than his concern for America’s role in the world or the lives of our men and women in uniform, but his absence at the summit would seem to indicate that it is.
In fairness, I should point out that according to the Associated Press the Obama family Spring Break will be a working vacation since “First Lady Michelle Obama, her mother and the Obama’s’ two daughters will conduct their own brand of diplomacy on the trip” by attending such events as a cultural performance by young disadvantaged Brazilians and visiting with underprivileged El Salvadorans.
During the 2008 presidential primary campaign Hillary Clinton famously asked if the White House phone rang in the dead of the night who would you want to answer it. The Democratic Party answered Barrack Obama and the American electorate agreed with their choice. But it would appear that Hillary Clinton is answering the phone after all, at least while the President and his family are enjoying their Spring Break.