President Barack Obama’s campaign heads to the Pacific and Asian corners of the world this week where his public relations crew will produce a symphony of visuals for American voters. The nine day trip will include visits to San Diego, Hawaii, Australia, Bali and Indonesia.
White House officials have given no indication of any major announcements coming during the official presidential trip. The administration has consistently described it as an opportunity for the president to meet with Pacific leaders and sign several minor agreements, all of which have been negotiated in advance.
The president intends to repeatedly call leaders in Washington involved in the budget-debate. In fact, Friday aboard Air Force One, the president telephoned both a Democrat and a Republican member of the super committee.
White House press secretary Jay Carney made reference to the super committee calls to repeat the administration’s standard talking points — the president has “put forth a very detailed plan for deficit reduction to the committee” and reiterate the White House position “that any approach must be balanced and will require tough choices by both sides, including looking at revenues and entitlements.”
The first stop on the trip was San Diego on Friday, where the president — and numerous TV cameras — watched a dramatic Veterans Day basketball game played on the deck of the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.
Basketball is his “first love” and the NBA lockout is “killing me,” Obama told sportscaster Jim Gray, shortly after he took time to thank veterans “for making the sacrifices … on our behalf.”
The president said “this ship supports what’s happening in Afghanistan,” and referenced the fact that “it was from this aircraft carrier that some of the first assaults on Iraq were launched.” Obama also explained at length his promise to support veterans once they take off their uniforms.
“What we’ve done is make sure that Congress passed legislation that makes it a little bit easier for businesses to hire our veterans … The first lady along with Dr. Jill Biden have put together something called Joining Forces that has now gotten commitments — 100,000 jobs for veterans and military spouses all across the country. And we are grateful for them for that effort.”
In Hawaii Obama will meet Saturday morning with other leaders at the TransPacific Partnership. The group is a pending free-trade deal being negotiated between high-tech or low-wage countries, including Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Obama will also meet Saturday afternoon with business leaders from across the Pacific at the APEC CEO Business Summit. “He’ll be engaging in a dialogue with Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing,” a White House official said Wednesday.
The bitter dispute between Boeing and Obama appointees at the National Labor Relations Board might provide newsworthy drama for this visual, but such is unlikely because White House officials don’t want acrimony. “The NLRB is an independent agency so I don’t expect that that would come up in a conversation,” Jay Carney, White House press secretary said Friday.
Obama will squeeze in lunchtime meetings with the Japanese and Russian prime minsters before an afternoon sit down with China’s leader, Hu Jintao.
Sunday Obama will deliver a short speech to the 20 other heads of state attending the APEC Summit to promote green-tech jobs, trade, and investment.
Sunday evening, Obama will meet with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada.
Monday, TV-viewers will watch the president relaxing in Hawaii, although he’s expected to attend a morning fundraiser.
The next image-making day is Wednesday when the president will be feted by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Obama will hold a joint press conference and deliver a speech to the Australian parliament.
The backdrop will then shift to Darwin, a town in Australia’s far north bombed by a Japanese carrier-borne air fleet in World War II. Obama is expected to lay a wreath and give a speech in Darwin to Australian troops — some of whom have served in Afghanistan — before meeting with local leaders.
The Indonesian island of Bali will offer the visual background Friday when Obama meets with the prime minister of India. Bali will also provide the backdrop for a series of meetings with Asian leaders on Friday and Saturday just before the president’s return to Washington, D.C.