IBD has the post-mortem:
This trip wasn’t about diplomacy, or taking a stand for democracy or encouraging American values. The president mouthed cautious, standard U.S. stances on Cuba, drugs and free trade, but did so with little conviction.
Instead, he was really focused on winning votes back home as campaign season kicks in. Acts that can only be justified in a campaign rather than diplomatic context formed a pretty long list at this summit:
• Presummit briefings suggested the trip would be all about winning the Latino vote. “There is a unique quality to the relationship that we have with the Americas, specifically the fact that we have so many of our citizens here in the United States who trace their heritage back to the Americas,” White House aide Ben Rhodes said, explaining the reason for the trip.
• The president also became a new convert to free trade, despite consistently blocking it over the past three years. At a pre-summit stop in Latino-heavy Tampa, Fla., he told port workers: “When I’m in Colombia talking with other leaders, I’m going to be thinking about you.” Coming from the president who delayed the U.S.-Colombia free trade pact at a huge cost of U.S. jobs, it was all about the Latino vote again.
If I may add, the gullible Latino vote. Obama had a majority in both houses of Congress for the first two years of his term and neither item was a priority.
Even now, all he promised is that
he would “try” to bring up the issue in the first year of a second term.
“I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term,” he said. “I want to try this year.
• Politics doesn’t end at the water’s edge. On his official travels, Obama made time to attack GOP rival Mitt Romney in an interview with Univision, calling his immigration stance “very troubling.” Translation again? Not diplomacy, just the Latino vote.
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• Obama’s official Summit statement was also geared to domestic votes: “These last three years have been as difficult for the world economy as anything that we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” he oddly told the Latin leaders, whose economies are booming. “And it is a result of globalization and it is also a result of technology.” In another pander to voters, he effectively blamed foreigners and computers for his own fiscal failure and the mortgage crisis. That’s not diplomacy.
• Lastly there were photos of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dancing at a Cartagena club and knocking back a beer. Undignified in a diplomatic context, they are perfect images in a populist campaign context.
Too bad the press didn’t follow up.