Obama to attend elite Clinton event

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy hangs in the balance: His Palestinian outreach effort appears to be in shambles, gunmen are trucking weaponry away from Libya’s unguarded barracks, Egypt’s Islamists are pushing towards a theocracy, and Iran’s theocrats are developing nuclear weapons.

But Obama is giving two speeches on foreign policy today.

He spoke Wednesday morning to the United Nations General Assembly about trends in the Arab world, but also aimed his comments at his domestic audience.

Later Wednesday afternoon, he’ll give a speech to his fellow heads-of-state at former President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative — a meeting of transnational politicians, advocates and media.

Obama will “address the opening session of the Fifth Annual Meeting [to help] frame the agenda,” according to the seminar’s website. “World leaders will identify critical areas for action and collaboration across a multitude of sectors, ranging from education, and energy and climate change to global health and the economic empowerment,” the statement continued.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give the concluding speech on Thursday.

“What good, if any, comes from this is hard to say,” said John Bolton, who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006. “It provides a forum for international leaders who want to speak, but the whole week is a forum” over at the U.N.’s General Assembly, he said.

Obama attended Clinton’s event in 2009 and 2010.

Clinton touted the event in a CBS Sunday morning interview on Sept. 18. The event will focus on ways to create new jobs, he said, adding that “one of the most successful things I’ve been able to do in Haiti, for example, is help the arts and crafts people be stronger than they were before the earthquake.”

“It’s a way of staying active … it’s a chance to preen,” said John Fonte, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and the author of a new book about the push for strong international government, “Will Americans Rule Themselves or be Ruled by Others?”

“In the international community, people love these kinds of things … they’re social occasions,” Bolton said. Attendees “hobnob with one another another, and there’s always some utility” in such meeting. “I don’t myself look for opportunities to go to them because there are plenty of other things to do.”

The meeting also provides Clinton an ability to garner media attention on things that interest him, Bolton said. Obama, he added, might have similar purposes.

“Maybe when he leaves the presidency, he’ll set up the Obama Global Initiative conference.”

“This would be appeal to him,” said Fonte. “Maybe they could work together.”

Clinton’s meeting will take place at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, 13 blocks away from the United Nations headquarters. The event is funded by sponsors and advertisers.

Tuesday’s headliners include Obama, Bill Clinton, the former prime minister of Australia and the former president of Chile. All are liberal leaders.

Subsequent sessions will feature former Vice President Al Gore and General Electric CEO and chairman of Obama’s business advisory group, Jeffrey Immelt.

There are few conservatives or free-market advocates invited to the event, but Clinton did invite Hany El Banna, the president of Islamic Relief.

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