President Obama Discusses Japan, Middle East at DNC Fundraiser

Mar 16, 2011 6:28pm

Golf, NCAA brackets, Democratic fundraisers, trips to Rio….the president may be engaged in a lot of hard work on Japan, the Middle East and North Africa, the budget and the economy behind the scenes, but he seems conscious of the fact that participating in some of these other activities might not look so good.

At a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel late this afternoon, President Obama took a moment to discuss Japan and American leadership.

"We're at a moment in time where obviously all of us are heartbroken by the images of what's happening in Japan,” the president told the moneyed crowd. “And we're reminded of how American leadership is critical to our closest allies, even if those allies themselves are economically advanced and powerful, there are moments where they need our help. We're bound together by a common humanity. But we also have the convulsions in the Middle East that offer the prospect of incredible change and offer enormous opportunities so that our children could live in a most- in a more peaceful world, but we're gonna have to take advantage of them."

The president's remarks were more somber than you might expect at a DNC fundraiser. He mentioned Iraq, the need to bring Afghanistan war to an end in a way that's safe and secure, fighting terrorism, education, and other issues.

The remarks come at a time when pundits and others are starting to criticize President Obama’s leadership style as too remote and detached, ceding too much leadership in international affairs when it comes to Libya and spending too much time engaged in activities that seem less than priorities, such as the round of gold he played over the weekend and the NCAA picks he revealed on ESPN and ESPN 2.

President Obama urged those watching his NCAA picks special to donate to Japan relief at http://usaid.gov. Today a reporter asked White House press secretary Jay Carney if it was appropriate for the president to be addressing a crisis of this gravity as he's standing before a whiteboard talking about the basketball tournament?

“There are crises all the time, and for every president,” Carney said. “And again, this one is happening halfway around the world, and it is severe, and it is important, and it is the focus of a great deal of the president's attention, as are the events in the Middle East, as are the agenda items that he is pursuing to grow the economy and increase jobs in America and make sure we out-innovate, out-build and out-educate the competition in the 21st century.”

Carney continued: “it's a hard job. It requires a lot.” He noted the president urged his fellow March Madness fans to take a moment while filling out their brackets to make financial donations to a variety of charitable organizations to help the Japanese. “So yes, I do think it was appropriate,” Carney said.

More criticism is likely to come; tomorrow President Obama travels to Capitol Hill for a St. Patrick’s Day event with congressional leadership. On Friday the president leaves for Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; and San Salvador, El Salvador.

This week reporters asked Carney if the president was considering delaying his trip because of the disaster in Japan, unrest in Libya and Bahrain, and ensuing economic chaos.

“The president is taking this trip because he is committed to growing the economy, rebalancing our national security posture,” Carney said. “He remains confident he can fully execute his job when he is on the road.”

-Jake Tapper

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