Missed summits: Chaos in Congress costs the U.S. opportunity

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The absence of President Barack Obama from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia, was comprehensible in American political terms but a costly no-show in terms of U.S. international relations.

There is no question but that the Republicans, particularly as they pursue tactics that try to suggest Mr. Obama is refusing to talk to them, would have tried to take advantage of his absence from Washington to claim that he cares more about the opinion of foreigners than he does about the fate of America. The country's well-being and credit are at severe risk in the name of saving House Speaker John A. Boehner's job from the Tea Party Republicans and in an effort to stain Mr. Obama's presidency.

The cost to the United States in Asia is substantial. Chinese President Xi Jingping attended the summit in Bali, proactive and demonstrating to the other 20 countries that his behemoth nation is there to stay and that the United States, represented by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, put APEC and the other forum Mr. Obama was supposed to attend, the East Asia Summit, far second or even third. Vice President Joe Biden may not have gone to Asia in Mr. Obama's place to avoid, as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, possible political damage over being away from Washington as it plays out its childish drama.

In the meantime, foreign leaders at the summit are taking advantage of the situation and are concerned that Washington will not get its act together and behave responsibly. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said he wouldn't have come either if he were in the same situation as Mr. Obama, a backhanded expression of sympathy. The Chinese president came with a pot of money, a new $50 billion infrastructure bank, which the United States could not have matched unless the Chinese had been willing to lend Washington the funds.

The 21 countries at the APEC summit represent 40 percent of the world's population, 55 percent of the world's gross domestic product and 44 percent of its trade. Due to a handful of irresponsible congressmen, Mr. Obama missed the meeting and what it presented in terms of U.S. economic opportunity. Call it another casualty of the chaos in the Capitol.


First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM


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