Obama ditches three Asian summits, stays home to block reforms of Obamacare

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama cancelled his planned trade-boosting trips to international summits in exotic Indonesia and Brunei, as he tries to block the GOP’s reforms to his Obamacare health care law.

In a phone call to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, “the President… expressed his regret that the ongoing government shutdown in the United States will prevent him from attending the Summit” of 21 countries in the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, said White House statement released on Thursday.

Obama also called the Sultan of Brunei, and “expressed his regret that the ongoing government shutdown in the United States will prevent him from attending the Summits,” scheduled for the 10 national leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and for the 18 national leaders of the East Asian Summit. Both groups are U.S-led alliances, which are partly intended to contain China’s rising power in the Pacific.

On Tuesday, Obama’s staff announced that he had dropped plans to visit the Philippines and Malaysia during his trip to Indonesia and nearby Brunei.

It’s all the GOP’s fault, said a midnight statement from the White House.

“The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown… This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world,” said the statement.

Instead of Obama, the U.S. will be represented at the summits by Secretary of State John Kerry, the former Senator from Massachusetts.

In contrast, China’s President, Xi Jinping is visiting Malaysia and will attend the APEC summit in Indonesia. He’s trying to boost China’s trade to the region, and to displace job-creating U.S. exports to countries around the Pacific. The APEC summit is being held on the Indonesian island of Bali, which is widely regarded as tropical playground for the rich.

The inevitable TV images of Obama partying in Bali’s luxury resorts would hurt Obama’s domestic political strategy during the partisan impasse over Obamacare.

His strategy seeks to portray the GOP as solely responsible for the budget stand-off, which began when Obama refused to fund for federal agencies until the GOP dropped its proposals to reform Obamacare.

Because of Obama’s decision to block funding for the agencies until the GOP gives up its reforms, a large part of the federal government has been shut down, denying paychecks to roughly 800,000 civil servants.

To increase pressure on the public, Obama’s aides have also deployed police pickets to blockade federal parks. His aides have also directed staff to shut down access to free federal databases, such as the online portal to the census agency’s data.

Despite the government’s strike, public opinion has not significantly shifted against the GOP.

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Neil Munro