Obama's Short UN Schedule Prompts WH Defense

Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

President Obama, in an unusual move, has no plans to sit down one-on-one with world leaders in New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

With 43 days until the election, the president is bucking precedent and skipping the formal bilateral meetings, leaving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take on many of those conversations. By comparison, last year Obama scheduled a dozen official meetings.

Pushing back against criticisms that the president appears more interested in his reelection than speaking face-to-face with world leaders, the White House was adamant today that Obama is "intensely engaged" in matters of foreign affairs and national security.

"The president looks forward very much to participating at the United Nations General Assembly," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "The president has, just in the last few weeks, had extensive consultations with foreign leaders, including the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Yemen, Turkey, Libya. And those consultations will continue not just with leaders in the region but with leaders around the world."

After arriving in New York this afternoon, the president and first lady will tape an appearance on ABC's "The View," their first joint interview on the daytime talk show circuit.

This evening, the couple will attend a UNGA reception for heads of state, where, the White House stressed, Obama will have direct contact with many of his counterparts.

In his address before the assembly Tuesday morning, Obama is expected to outline his views on the recent unrest in the Middle East and underscore his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, according to the White House.

The president will denounce the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the anti-Islam film that has sparked violence across the region.

"It's a real moment for the United States to assert its values and its leadership role, to make clear where we stand in the midst of this remarkable period of transformation in the Arab world, how U.S. leadership, combined with the leadership of other nations, is helping the peoples of that region overcome decades of tyranny and move towards democratic forms of government that are more responsive to their aspirations," Carney said.

The president will spend roughly 24 hours in New York for the annual gathering, far less time than in years past. He returns to the White House Tuesday evening and hits the campaign trail in the battleground state of Ohio on Wednesday.