President Obama spoke today before the opening session of the UN General Assembly, and he took the opportunity to scold nations across the Middle East for the violent protests that have been occurring outside US embassies. Obama noted that democracy is hard work, and that leaders must not push their citizens to rally around perceived enemies, both foreign and domestic. He went on to say that the recent violence was in direct conflict with the ideals the UN was founded on, which was to handle problems through diplomacy instead of war.
Though he once again denounced the anti-Islamic video that has generated anger throughout the Middle East, President Obama voiced a strong defense of free speech. The president said that in today’s digital age, free speech could not be contained. Obama went on to say that no speech justified the violent behavior that was permeating the Middle East these past few weeks. Dozens of protesters have been killed as police have had to crack down on rowdy protests.
President Obama later spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative. He spoke strongly against human trafficking, which he claims should be called by its proper name: modern human slavery. After that speech the president headed back to Washington. He had no one-on-one meetings scheduled with foreign leaders.
The president’s schedule was the subject of some controversy in the past few weeks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu wanted a meeting with the president, but was turned down. President Obama cited a scheduling conflict, but Republicans pounced on the decision as an insult to Israel. Netanyahu has been critical of President Obama’s stance on Iran.
The upcoming presidential election is weighing heavily on President Obama’s schedule. The president is locked in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. This election will be fought more on domestic issues, which is the likely reason for the president’s light UN schedule.