With Problems Piling up, Obama Heads North
By Ben Pershing
The housing crisis. The global credit crunch. The auto industry meltdown. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Alex Rodriguez. With seemingly intractable problems stacked up one after the other, it would be understandable if President Obama just decided to flee the country, and that's exactly what he's doing today.
Obama heads to Canada this morning, supposedly for meetings with government officials and not, in fact, so he can change his identity and disappear, à la Jason Bourne. The White House claims he will be back in the U.S. by tonight. We'll believe it when we see it. So what's on the agenda in Ottawa? Trade and the environment. As The Fix points out, trade is a tricky issue for the new president. Obama was somewhat critical of NAFTA during the Democratic primaries but has softened his rhetoric since then; he seems unlikely to say or do anything today that would worry America's largest trading partner.
On the environment, the tar sands present a similarly delicate topic of discussion. Environmentalists complain about the greenhouse gases and toxic waste created by extracting oil from the tar sands, but the U.S. does import a huge amount of Canadian oil and our neighbor doesn't particularly want to hear Obama condemn such a vital industry. In an interview yesterday with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Obama signaled that he plans to smooth over differences between the two countries on the issue, pointing out that the U.S. -- "the Saudi Arabia of coal" -- has its own problems ahead balancing environmental and economic concerns. (By the way, 90 percent of Americans view Canada favorably. Take that, North Korea!)
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Posted at 8:20 AM ET on Feb 19, 2009
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