World leaders will be waiting for President Obama to begin his second address to the United Nations Thursday, and while leaders wait, many wonder what exactly will Obama say and do this year that is different from last year?
Critics say Obama may want to tout his administration's dealings with the U.N. but there's too much that hasn't been accomplished. Former Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox News Contributor John Bolton says the president's record at the United Nations is "anemic" and says it is "consistent with his minimal overall involvement in foreign and national-security policy, except when circumstances such as Iraq and Afghanistan present him with no seemly alternative other than to engage."
For its part, the Obama administration counters saying the past year has been productive for the United States at the United Nations.
"This year's visit to the U.N. General Assembly comes as we have successfully and dramatically changed our course at the United Nations. We've ended needless American isolation," U.S.
Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice told reporters Monday. "We've worked to repair what were some badly frayed relationships and scrapped outdated positions. And in the process, we've built a strong basis for cooperation that advances our security."Rice also said the U.S. progress on sanctions on Iran and North Korea, as well as the U.N. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are important steps taken over the course of the last year. And she specifically mentioned peacekeeping missions in Sudan.
From year-to-year at the United Nations General Assembly, a host of world leaders take the stage and give a speech, but they typically aren't that memorable. There's only a few that still resonate in history: President Bush laying out a plan for war in Iraq, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's 96-minute rambling tirade last year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez talking about the smell of sulfur left behind from the U.S. president. But if President Obama is hoping to make his mark on the body, he won't be talking about any of those things. Experts say the speech will give the president an opportunity to talk about world issues that aren't garnering the big headlines, and remind the over 200 world leaders of the mission of the United Nations.
"It will be a laundry list, going back to the role of the United Nations as the world's first responder. It's not the first party in an economic crisis, but is it the first when there's an earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan and problems in areas where nations fear to trade like Congo and Sudan," says Mark Quarterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies who spent over 10 years at the United Nations.
"There will be less of a specific focus on what Obama has accomplished at the U.N. when he speaks on Thursday and more on where the U.N. stands and what can be done to strengthen the U.N."
Quarterman says the U.N. General Assembly is really more of a show for leaders, their speeches resonating more in their home countries than on the world stage. Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, says the speech by Obama will give the prseident a chance to speak broadly about America's foreign policy.
"He'll also have the ability to look forward and to lay out in broad strokes what the United States is -- what the purpose of American leadership is in the world, as we continue to promote both peace and security and prosperity, but also democracy and human rights around the world," Rhodes told reporters in a conference call on Monday.
The real movement in New York Quaterman notes will be on the sidelines of the actual General Assembly meetings when the president participates in the Millennium Development Goal Summit, a meeting on Sudan and also a number of bi-lateral meetings with various leaders.
The issue of Sudan and an upcoming referendum in that nation is a topic the White House is highlighting during the three-day trip to New York. On Friday, President Obama will participate in a meeting on Sudan, a meeting he was not originally scheduled to attend but which the White House says his attendance at has increased interest for other nations.
Samantha Power, the senior director of multi-lateral affairs and an adviser to the president told reporters Friday's conference on Sudan will show that country it's time to move forward, with a push from the American president.
"The president's participation has already increased the representation from around the world. A number of other heads of state are now attending who weren't before. And this event will give the president an opportunity to deliver his own personal message to the parties in a series of remarks. And these will be quite substantial remarks on Sudan and on his vision for how to go forward there," Power said. "But moreover, it gives the opportunity for the international community to stand together again and send a very forceful message at a critical make-or-break time."