Friday, March 12, 2010

President postpones Indonesia trip, bumps Michelle, Malia and Sasha

Fox News has just reported that President Obama is postponing his trip to Indonesia to work on the health care bill:
President Obama has pushed back his trip to Indonesia for three days to work with beleaguered Democrats on trying to wrap up a health care overhaul.

The president was expected to leave Thursday for the six-day tour that included Guam and Australia. He has pushed it back until next Sunday.

The White House made the announcement on Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' Twitter.

"The President will delay leaving for Indonesia and Australia - will now leave Sunday - the First Lady and the girls will not be on the trip," Gibbs tweeted.

On Wednesday, Gibbs hinted that the president wasn't planning on delaying his travel to negotiate the sticking points among House Democrats in accepting the Senate health insurance reform bill.

"If we have any changes in the schedule, we'll certainly let you know, but the president believes it is an extremely important trip with -- it's an important region of the world and these are important partners," he said.

Gibbs added that "if it takes a couple of days extra" to get the bill passed, the president would be fine with missing the March 18 deadline he set for lawmakers "even if he's already gone."
This comes on the heels of a New York Times piece questioning (or at least reporting on others questioning) the timing of the trip:
With President Obama’s health care bill hanging in the balance, the White House is facing intensifying questions about whether Mr. Obama should take his planned trip to Indonesia and Australia next week.

The visit, which has been timed to coincide with spring break for the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, is something of a homecoming for Mr. Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. The trip is unusual, experts say, in that there is no economic summit or other multinational gathering for the president to attend.

Instead, Mr. Obama plans to meet with the leaders of the two countries, and also intends to show his family a bit of his past. The White House says the trip will send a powerful message to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and to Australia, a major trading partner.
It is questionable whether the President's presence in Washington will have any effect at all on the passage of his beloved health care bill.  But it does seem arrogant for him to give the Democrats a March 18 deadline for passing the bill, so he can sign it before he jets off on a spring break family vacation to his former homeland.  And what about that pivot to JOBS. How many jobs will his trip create in the U.S.?

Since Robert Gibbs announced the trip postponement on Twitter, I wonder if anyone at the White House bothered to call Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who had called a special joint sitting of parliament in Canberra for the occasion.  According to The Australian, not yet:
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Obama's travel arrangements were a matter for him, and the Australian government was proceeding "according to previous existing arrangements".

Postponing Mr Obama's trip by a week or more would mean significant changes to logistics, especially security.

Apart from the Indonesian leg of the trip, the Rudd government would have to alter a recall of federal politicians for the presidential address.
Oh wait.  The New York Times is reporting that the First Lady and the President's children will not be making the trip after all.  Is is possible the President is finally beginning to read the tea leaves?

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