President Obama has cancelled his June trip to Indonesia and Australia.
Late Thursday evening, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement saying Obama had called both the Australian Prime Minister and Indonesia President and "expressed his deep regret" that he has to "postpone his trip". However, despite speculation the trip was cancelled due to the on-going oil spill in the gulf, the statement left out any specific reason for the cancellation.
This is the second time the trip has been called off this year. It was originally scheduled for March but the Senate vote on health care forced the White House to delay the trip. It was later announced it would happen in June.
Meanwhile, the trip could allow for some cooling off over international affairs in Indonesia. Earlier this week in Jakarta, hundreds of students protested against the Obama visit on the heels of the incident involving Israel and the flotilla bound for Gaza.
While the president will see both the Indonesian President and Australian Prime Minister later this month in Toronto for the annual G20 meeting some say the damage is already done.
"The decision belies a narrative the Obama administration had tried to write—that it was going to “get Asia right” and engage the region at the highest levels in a serious and sustained manner to advance U.S. interests. It would reverse the woeful attendance record of the Bush administration with respect to showing up for the major events in Asia; it understood that “being there” was more than half the battle for reversing perceptions of U.S. disengagement. That storyline lost credibility today," wrote Ernest Bower in a Center for Strategic and International Studies Commentary.
And while the gulf oil spill occupies the thoughts of Americans, Bower warns having a global vision is needed even in times of crisis.
"The factor that must be addressed to prevent this situation from becoming endemic is that leaders—in this case, President Obama—must have the courage to explain to Americans why traveling to countries like Indonesia, the fourth-largest nation in the world, and Australia, a treaty ally and critical friend, is as important to our country’s economy and national security as an oil spill in the Gulf," writes Bower. "He must explain that he needs to follow through on plans to develop ties with these countries while he manages the Gulf situation using technology and his team."