April 25th, 2014
07:55 AM ET
8 months ago

Inside Politics Speed Read: Pop quiz on Obama's rough foreign trip

Pop quiz on Obama’s foreign trip: There was a point during his news conference in South Korea on Friday morning when President Obama referenced how the U.S. was standing up to a rogue world player.

“We don’t reward bad behavior,” he said, before outlining what the U.S. would do to deter it.

Was he referring to:

a) Syria

b) Russia

c) North Korea

d) China

The answer in this case is c, North Korea. But it could have been “all of the above.”

The President’s trip abroad, with stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, has been overshadowed by speculation about North Korea’s nuclear weapons efforts, his standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, China’s claim to the Senkaku Islands, new allegations of gas attacks in Syria and the apparent collapse of Middle East Peace talks.

Second terms are often when a president shifts focus to international affairs. And for Obama, that shift was to include a much anticipated “pivot” to focus on Asia and trade. But events have continued to conspire against the pivot. For starters, Obama was unable in Japan to secure a deal that would move toward a Trans Pacific Partnership trade group. And American efforts to use sanctions to keep Russia out of Ukraine, use international pressure to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons and find a Middle East peace deal have all simultaneously hiccupped.

Related: Ukraine PM says Russia wants to start World War III

Related: 5 Takeaways from Obama’s news conference in South Korea

Would Obama save a drowning Putin? It was a weird and perhaps inappropriate question for President Obama, who is visiting South Korea and had just paid tribute to victims of the horrible ferry accident. But it was the result of a strange chain of events.

During a televised Q&A on April 17, a 6-year-old boy asked Russian President Vladimir Putin if he thought Obama would save him if he were drowning.

“I don’t think I have close personal relationship with Obama. I think Obama is a courageous and good person and he would for sure save me,” said Putin.

So a reporter carried the analogy along today and asked Obama if Putin was right.

“I absolutely would save Mr. Putin if he were drowning,” said the President. “I'd like to think that if anybody's out there drowning, I'm going to save them. I used to be a pretty good swimmer, I grew up in Hawaii.”

But he clearly doesn’t agree with the Russian President about much. He accused Putin of viewing the world through a “Cold War prism.” And he said Putin’s decisions with regard to Syria and Ukraine make it difficult to work with him.

“Don’t make me do this”: CNN’s Gabe LaMonica reports: House Speaker John Boehner talked like a baby Thursday to mock the way Republicans act about immigration reform. President Obama, on the other side of the globe, said Friday that immigrants are "who we are." The Republican was home at an event in Ohio when he spoke of the "attitude" of his fellow GOP congressmen.

"Ooooooh, don't make me do this," said Boehner, whining into a microphone at a brown bag luncheon. "Ooooooh, this is too hard," he mocked his other Republicans for being afraid to reform immigration policy at the Middletown Rotary Club in his district, where he faces a May 6 primary against three local opponents.

U.S. lawmakers are wrapping up the end of two weeks out of Washington. When they return next week, a big question for House Republicans will be how Boehner moves forward with the immigration reform measures that have so far seen little development in the House he leads.

Related: Maybe immigration reform isn’t dead after all

Family Feud: George H.W. Bush wants Jeb to run: Barbara Bush famously expressed trepidation about the prospect of her second son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, running for president. There have been enough Bushes and Clintons in the White House, she said.

But the feeling is not, apparently, shared by her husband.

CNN’s Gloria Borger asked the third Bush son, Neil, about Barbara Bush’s comments.

"If you asked Dad the same question 'Should Jeb run?' he'd say yes." Asked again whether Bush 41 would specifically be for it, Neil Bush replied, "Yeah, he would say yeah."

Related: American empires: the Bushes and the Clintons

Related: Barbara Bush hopes Jeb won’t run for president

Reading List:

CNN Exclusive: Rancher Cliven Bundy defends racist remarks

NYT: Obama suffers setbacks in Japan and Mideast

WP: Feds prepare to take over Oregon’s broken health insurance exchange

 

 

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