Obama’s Unfinished Business In Asia

Apr 22, 2014 8:53am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • THE ART OF THE PRESIDENTIAL PIVOT: For President Obama, it’s the “pivot” that never quite made the full turn. His “deliberate and strategic decision” in 2011 to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward Asia has been repeatedly distracted by crises elsewhere. This week, Obama tries again to return to message with a seven-day, four-country swing through Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Philippines. He plans to reassert the U.S. as a Pacific nation, while charting what he’s called a “larger and long-term role” in the region’s future, officials say. ABC’s DEVIN DWYERhas five things to watch as Obama makes his fifth trip to Asia as president: http://abcn.ws/RHKY2q
  • THE CHINA FACTOR: Obama won’t visit China on this trip, DWYER notes, but the rising economic and military power casts a long shadow. Its increasingly assertive role in the region has unsettled some longstanding U.S. allies, who question whether the U.S. remains an effective counterbalance. White House officials reject the notion that the trip is aimed at containing Chinese influence, calling it a “positive trip with a positive agenda.” Still, Obama’s visit appears designed at least in part to demonstrate the type of regional player America wants to be. It comes at a critical moment, with some U.S. allies privately concerned that Russia’s recent incursion into Ukraine — unchallenged militarily by the West — could embolden China in territorial disputes, including one over Japan’s Senkaku Islands. http://abcn.ws/RHKY2q
  • ONE EERIE NEXUS: All four countries President Obama will visit over the next week have recently experienced horrific tragedies, ABC’s STEPHANIE SMITH notes:  The 2011 earthquake in Japan that triggered a powerful tsunami and nuclear meltdown; a deadly typhoon last November in the Philippines; and two ongoing disasters — the Malaysian flight 370 mystery and the capsized ferry in South Korea.  At this point, the president has no scheduled events related to the tragedies unfolding in Malaysia and South Korea.
  • FACT: It’s been almost 50 years since a U.S. president set foot in Malaysia. The last was President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. President Bill Clinton almost made it there in 1998 until a showdown with Iraq over weapons inspectors forced the last minute substitution of Vice President Al Gore.

 

BUZZ

with ABC’s ALINA KLEINEIDAM

TRIO OF HOUSE DEMS RUN THE BOSTON MARATHON FOR CHARITY. Politicians are used to running and raising money, but yesterday three House Democrats ran in the Boston Marathon to raise money for charities that help victims of last year’s finish line bombing, ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON reports. Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Stephen Lynch, both from Massachusetts, joined Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona in the 118th Boston Marathon. Prior to the start, Lynch, 59, tweeted a photo with Sinema and his press secretary Meghan Aldridge, who is also running. Meanwhile, Kennedy posted several pictures leading up to the race, including a selfie with his wife Lauren on a bus on their way to the starting line. Sinema, 37, ran in honor of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed by the first blast in last year’s twin bombing. She says she has raised $20,000 for Team MR8, a charity established in memory of Martin by his parents. http://abcn.ws/1pnbeO4

ELIZABETH WARREN: ‘I’M NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.‘ In an interview with ABC News, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., insisted she is not seeking a presidential bid despite suggestions that she could present a formidable threat to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ. “I’m not running for president,” Warren told ABC’s DAVID MUIR in an interview at her home in Cambridge, Mass. Asked about a recent story that suggested she is ”Hillary’s nightmare,” Warren said, “I don’t get who writes these headlines or what they’re about. I think there’s just kind of a pundit world out there.” “Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?” Muir asked. “I think Hillary Clinton is terrific,” Warren said. “We gotta stay focused on these issues right now.” Though she did not directly answer whether Clinton would make a good president, Warren was one of 16 Democratic female senators who signed a secret letter to Clinton last year urging her to run for president in 2016. http://abcn.ws/1nDg7OF

ANALYSIS — ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Assuming that the 2016 question has been asked and answered – not that she won’t be asked and asked it again – Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a potent force these days, inside and outside her party. Her book (and media surrounding it) show an ability to merge personal stories with political messages that’s, well, worthy of a presidential candidate. But the point is that she doesn’t have to be to tap into broad frustrations with big institutions, financial and otherwise, and powerful strains surrounding income inequality. Warren’s not-quite-yet-full endorsement of the Democratic frontrunner – “I think Hillary Clinton is terrific,” she told ABC’s David Muir – speaks loudly enough. As does what she said next: “We gotta stay focused on these issues right now.”

DONALD TRUMP: DONATION TO TED CRUZ DOESN’T MEAN SUPPORT FOR 2016. Donald Trump recently contributed $5,000 to Sen. Ted Cruz’s political action committee, but the real estate and reality TV mogul says the cash doesn’t necessarily mean he’s backing Cruz for president in 2016, ABC’s ALINA KLEINEIDAM notes. “No, it doesn’t,” Trump told FOX News yesterday, and added: “He’s a nice guy, I get along with him, he speaks a lot at Mar-a-Lago, everybody speaks at Mar-a-Lago, they all come to Mar-a-Lago to speak … but he came in and asked whether or not to do it and it’s a PAC for certain causes, and it’s, you know, conservative causes so I did that. … No, that doesn’t really reflect that at all.” Trump’s donation represents the maximum allowed under the law for this election cycle and reflects his increasing support for the Texas Republican, who is said to be considering a presidential run, after the rocky start of their relationship.  http://abcn.ws/1ttzEoF

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

7 MOMENTS OF EXTREME CUTENESS AT ANNUAL WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL. Last one there’s a rotten egg! More than 30,000 guests gathered on the White House South Lawn yesterday for the at the 136th annual Easter Egg Roll. Flanked by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and the Easter Bunny, a beaming 12-year-old Cam Antony — already a YouTube singing sensation — gave a soulful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” His performance was greeted by thunderous applause from the audience and oohs and aahs from the first family. ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY’s AND CHRIS GOOD’s round up the highlights of yesterday’s White House Easter Egg Roll: http://abcn.ws/1eWV5uk

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

WHY OBAMA TOLD ELIZABETH WARREN SHE WOULDN’T LEAD CONSUMER WATCHDOG AGENCY. It felt like a green version of hell. That’s how Elizabeth Warren described a meeting with President Obama in 2011 when she learned that she would not be tapped to lead the newly created consumer watchdog agency that she had pioneered. It was a hot day, and the president wanted to have the meeting outside. “It was these tall, tall hedges, so there was no air,” Sen. Warren told ABC News’ David Muir in a sit-down interview. “The president said, ‘Isn’t this great?’ And I thought, ‘God, you gotta be kidding me.’” WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1gO3ATM

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@markknoller: It’ll be Pres Obama’s 5th trip to Asia and is designed says @AmbassadorRice to “underscore” the importance the US places on the region.

@mattyglesias: Great @DLeonhardt piece on how the US middle class is no longer the world’s richest: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/upshot/the-american-middle-class-is-no-longer-the-worlds-richest.html?smid=tw-upshotnyt&_r=0&referrer= …

@gregmcrc: Big Mo? 38 #GOP lawmakers join lawsuit challenging legality of #Obamacare #tcot #teaparty. http://ow.ly/3jyJ4u 

@Peggynoonannyc: A book will be an opportunity for Clinton to address on her own terms and with her own data the question of Benghazi. http://on.wsj.com/1jz1hpL 

@ruthreichl: Pale sky. Cool air. Hopeful robins on green lawn. Creamed watercress: peppery tang. Melting parmesan. Poached egg. Trying to be spring.

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