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Obama's principles on the line in Copenhagen

President Obama listens during a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, not pictured, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

By Scott Wilson
In urging leaders Friday to sacrifice some national interests to forge a climate change agreement, President Obama risked more than the prestige of his office. He placed on the table a guiding principle of his foreign policy.

"I believe," he told the heads of state gathered in Copenhagen, "we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of a common threat."

Obama has, in a series of speeches this year, argued that countries will set aside national interests to act collectively against international threats--if there is also an element of self-interest involved. Climate change poses the biggest challenge to that principle.

In his remarks Friday to a plenary session of the U.N. climate-change conference, Obama broke from the approach he has adopted toward such domestic priorities as health care legislation. He has, in that case, allowed several of his preferred policies, including the public option, to fall by the wayside in order to keep the bill moving.

By contrast, Obama told the conference that an agreement without a meaningful way "to hold each other accountable" would amount to a "hollow victory." He was speaking primarily to the Chinese government, which opposes verification measures to ensure that nations comply with their specific commitments to trim back emissions.

China's pollution problem is severe enough to have stirred up domestic protest against the government, a rarity in the communist country. But whether the Chinese government will set aside its traditional resistance to outside monitoring - whether on the environment or human rights - to address climate change is a direct challenge to Obama's view of how governments should act in a world where the biggest threats are rarely confined by national borders.

"Our ability to take collective action is in doubt right now," Obama acknowledged, "and it hangs in the balance."

Obama has gambled before in Copenhagen, breaking with the presidential convention of traveling to international conferences only after agreements have been achieved. He traveled to the city in October to try and secure the 2016 Summer Olympics for his hometown of Chicago, only to lose out to Rio and inflame his conservative critics for, in their view, diminishing the stature of his office.

This time he rearranged his trip to arrive when he might be most needed - on what is supposed to be the final day of the conference, after negotiators had done what they could, leaving the largest sticking points to the heads of state. Obama is enormously popular abroad, and he is hoping to trade on that personal appeal in Copenhagen.

But will Obama accept less than what he outlined Friday morning -- that is, agree to a deal that does not have an international verification process?

The question will likely be answered in the next few hours. China has called the inclusion of stringent monitoring a deal breaker. Obama made clear that, without one, an agreement would not be worth much more than the paper it's printed on. After making their polar-opposite statements, Obama and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao met one-on-one for nearly an hour.

"No country will get everything it wants," Obama warned in his speech. "We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build on its foundation...Or we can choose delay."

By By Scott Wilson  |  December 18, 2009; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Barack Obama , Climate Change  
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I wholeheartedly endorse investing in alternative energy sources-even renewable, if it is practical. What I take issue with are binding international agreements that erode national sovereignty. The U.S. Congress(for better or worse) has the final say on any climate legislation-not the President or any international body.

Posted by: moebius22 | December 18, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I am proud of Obama for going to Denmark and going after results. I love his idealism-- making "personal" (national) concessions for the better of the world. Really, this will help us more than it will hurt us :)

For the global warming naysayers, all I can do is sigh at this point. The public has greater access to science than ever before, now if only people can be taught to interpret science. It'll happen, eventually.

Think of how our country has benefited from the need for innovation in the past--- whether it be war or putting a man on the moon, when technological advances are necessary, our lives have later been enriched. Sure war costs a lot, and sure putting someone on the moon wasn't cheap--- but think of everything we got out of those endeavors. I believe that an agreement to reduce emissions will not only save the environment, but will also provide a beautiful opportunity for innovation and economic GROWTH! Regardless of whether or not you "believe" in global warming, one should be able to acknowledge the opportunity this presents. With a big investment will come massive returns.

Good things will come from energy reform.

Posted by: battrd | December 18, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Sadly Obama's priciples are that of the Democrtaic leadership. which is to make the United States subordinate to a variety of international treaties in an attempt to subvert American courts, the Congress, and ultimately the Constitution.

On every agreement form Copenhagen, to the Arms Trade Treaty,and CEDAW, we have Democrats supporting international treaties that erode American sovereignty; making the country subordinate to Non-Governmental Organizations and multi-national institutions such as the UN and European Union.

I disagree with the line of argument that just becuase our European peers are entering into such agreements, we should automatically follow suit.

Posted by: moebius22 | December 18, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

In the midst of this terrible global warming we are getting our heaviest snow in 25 years---man is it hot in the NC mountains. It is just impossible to understand the motivation of Obama or his values. I await his home coming so that I can hear another teleprompter speech where he tells us how much he loves himself.

Posted by: Mindboggle | December 18, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

What principles?

Do you mean his Progressive, Socialist, Marxist, Liberal , Democrat Principles?

They have should loved him over there.

But Hugo got the standing ovation.


Posted by: Acornisascam | December 18, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Lets hope for socialism, its egalitarian at least.
Why do so many of the commentators here refer to socialism all the time? What is socialist about anything the Republicans or Democrats do?
Just lay it out and explain for me and the other slow ones, ok?

Posted by: WilliamBlake | December 18, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Obama and principle is an oxymoron. We have seen Tiger Woods shown to be a charlatan and fraud, despite being a champion golfer.
Shortly, Barrack Hussein Obama will also be shown to be a charlatan and fraud,
despite being a gifted orator. And global warming, is just a major league fraud with no redeeming quality. Global warming is just a sophisticated attempt to destroy capitalism.

Posted by: GaGator | December 18, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

You forget - mr obama has no principles.....he just keeps putting us deeper in debt while accepting $200 million from pharmaceuticals in exchange for guaranteeing inflated drug prices. another 1.8 trillion last week for mostly 5000 earmarks....what principle.
allowing his pals to shut off lieberman because he doesn't agree with them.... no democracy left.


Posted by: barbiek1 | December 18, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The Chinese are right to call international monitring a deal breaker. International monitoring makes China subordinate to an international body;infringing on its sovereignty.

Likewise what our President has in mind is unconstitutional, and erodes the countries sovereignty by making us subordinate to the UN.

Posted by: moebius22 | December 18, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"Obama has, in a series of speeches this year, argued that countries will set aside national interests to act collectively against international threats--if there is also an element of self-interest involved."

Unfortunately, countries, markets, banks, companies, organizations, groups, and individuals all frequently act irrationally. At times, they do not operate in their self-interest or necessarily in the interest of others.

I admire President Obama, his vision, and values; I distrust his ability to see others accurately and hold others accountable including those in his own White House. There will be unfortunate consequences.

Nevertheless, I voted for him and will likely vote for him again. ~ richard allbritton, Miami,

Posted by: rigel1 | December 18, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"...-if there is also an element of self-interest involved."

Uh, Mr. President, if you look at history, self-interest usually means letting someone else carry the burden. More often than not, it's the American taxpayer who has shouldered that burden. If you really want to see the rest of the world roll up their sleeves and open their wallets, just take care of our own environment for a change. Let them clean up their own smog and raw sewage. It's called leading by example and it should be our only obligation to the world from here on.

Posted by: dudefromthebronx | December 18, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Principles? How does raising taxes on working folks and giving it to non-working folks reduce pollution? What principles are we talking about here?

Posted by: mgrantham2 | December 18, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Principles what?... This jerk is a stinking crook most probably connected with the mob.....principles are you s*****g me?

Posted by: affirmativeactionpresident | December 18, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

It is so exciting to see a president smart, energetic, and engaged enough to actually plunge into the real process today. There are no guarantees and he could walk away empty-handed. But if so, that is where we were headed anyway.

So the only risk he is taking is to his personal poll ratings. The nation's and the world's environment will either benefit from his risk-taking on its behalf, or be no worse off.

This is change I can believe in. I am so proud of our president, no matter the outcome, he has gone all in for our future and for future generations.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | December 18, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"Remember Kyoto looked like a failure and they went into overtime and they came out with an agreement."

- - -

Kyoto *still* looks like a failure. And thank God for that.

Posted by: seraphina | December 18, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

For now it appears they are going into overtime in Copenhagen so it isn't over yet. Remember Kyoto looked like a failure and they went into overtime and they came out with an agreement.

It is possible this could still be save and all is not lost.

However if it IS all lost I have to wonder why was Obama elected? The man who we all thought could change how things run seem to not be able to change anything.

All this hope has turned to hopelessness.

Posted by: Denbo1 | December 18, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Obama's principle is "assume Americans are stupid and shove his socialist agenda down our throats."

Posted by: pkhenry | December 18, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Obama's principle is "assume Americans are stupid and shove his socialist agenda down our throats."

Posted by: pkhenry | December 18, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Let us be fair Obama is just another politician. As such he has NO Principles!~
The sole reason to get elected is to enrich yourself first and then your friends. Theft, payoffs, bribes, lobby money, PAC money is the way you do it. Obama is no different than any other politician in that he takes campaign money as his own, keeps it when he leaves and has the guts to take a lifetime pension.

Posted by: KBlit | December 18, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

This clown Odumbo looks like a Fuller Brush salesman, who just can't sell anything. No offense meant to salesmen.

His frequent trips overseas to pander to our enemies continue to show no concrete results.

What a terrible joke this moron is on the American people.

Posted by: LarryG62 | December 18, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's principles on the line"


Obama has one principle: how to get re-elected.

Anything besides that is simply in support of that one principle.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | December 18, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Biographical note copyright 1993 by Random House, Inc.
Edward the Black Prince; son of Edward III.!DCD7544ECCB8065F!250.entry

Posted by: edtroyhampton | December 18, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

My Children are hungry, Mr. President.
My bills, unpaid; Mr. President.
I have lost my healthcare,
and have spent my pension,
trying to save my house,
I am not as worried about
global warming,
as I am,
of my children,
living in my 94' Dodge Mini Van.
Sleep warmly,
and dream of the legacy,
of 15 million american families,
praying for heat.

Posted by: simonsays1 | December 18, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

the "COMMON ENEMY"...and who would that be people who fly in jetplanes all the time, commuters...or, GASP, is he going to invade the Sun and calm things down a bit.\

Doesn't he read how the warming in New England has given us bumper crops??...Blueberries, lobsters, maple syrup, biomass, apples...we love global warming, bring it on!

Doesn't he read the heating degree records for the past three years in N. New England?

We've had three cold years in a row, and record snowfalls.....don't bug me about the seeming contradiction, I just provide the facts and they of course contradict that noted climate scientist, AL GORE.

Posted by: Common_Cents1 | December 18, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Accept the simple fact.

He is a lifetime law student.

Never held a real job.

Never had to make ends meet.

He knows nothing of the reality
of Real americans, without jobs,
and now;
Without HOPE.

Posted by: simonsays1 | December 18, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Thank You, Mr. President;
for traveling to far away
lands, to secure the Green Jobs
and Ham, americans need so badly.

I am praying that your white house
will find a way to spin the unemployment
numbers. We don't want this economy
hanging in the balance.

Healthcare will reduce the deficit!

Spending will reduce the deficit!

hello 1984. Thank You, Mr. Orwell.

Posted by: simonsays1 | December 18, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Everybody should realize that jahoby et al are not real people - nobody could be that stupid, unless they are being paid to post such drivel. They are paid bots for the RNC.

Posted by: lynx1 | December 18, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

'Twas the far-right before Christmas, when all through the House
Not a Senator was stirring, ‘cept Harry, ‘tha louse’;
The stocks were all hungry due to Obama’s non-care,
With hope and change, Socialism soon would be here;
The libs were nestled all smug in their heads,
While visions of sugar-bamas tingled up their legs;
And Michelle in her stylin 'kerchief, and the girls on my back,
Had just simma’d down for a long winter's Barack,
When out on the great lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the crib to see some Demo-cratters.
Away for the Nobel, I flew Air Force One,
Tore open my check and threw out the cash.
The boom on the economy from the new-Risen One
Gave the promises of the mid-term to my subjects below,
When, what to my wonderful eyes should appear,
But another porkulus bill, from sixty-some Reid-eers,
With the usual drivel, “must pass it real quick”,
I knew all along it’s about ‘da politick.
Bad climate? Too much sweatin’?
No worry – we’re off to Hope-n-Changin’.
More vapid than speeches my cursers they came,
So I pontificated, and charmed, and called them via ‘prompter;
"No, Dashle? Don’t Answer! Now, Pilosi – You Vixen!
A Blunder? - Blame Biden! Ain’t me that needs Fixen!”

Posted by: jahoby | December 18, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

To mention principles and obnama in the same breath is an oxeymoron. First he is a democrat and principles are somethign of which they have little if any. Second, he is a consumate liar and has been caught so many times already that we have lost track.
Third, if he had principles he would not be hiding his birth certificate and his school records from public view. Fourth his principles do not include doing the job to which he was elected, mainly to represent the majority of the American public. He has misrepresentede the voters with his appointment of Tsars over public programs and no congrssional oversight nor does he represent the people when he tries to force a disasterous health care program down the throats of Americans. He has no principles when he and his party continue to bail out failed business and the CEO's get massive bonuses for causing the failure in the first place. He bailed out the Auto manufactures when they caused their own problems. He has instutitued, with his party, massive tax hikes upon the American public and has put a debt burdon upon unborn citizens. This pluse he support of abortion and the killing of unborn citizens. Yet he welcomes the Criminal Illigal Aliens in by the droves as he runs hell bent upon Socializing our country. Yea talk about his principles,
that is if you can find any.

Posted by: jmsmaxwell | December 18, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

it's not obama's washington, he is just a passerby...
soon enough he will be gone but first his friends in the house and senate have to go...

Posted by: DwightCollins | December 18, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Principles, what principles?

The incompetent slug has none, just like Reid, Pelosi, Clinton, Durbin, Dodd, Hoyer, and a score of the corrupt party leaders.

Posted by: LarryG62 | December 18, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama v Principles? What an oxymoron!

Just look at his actions on:

- Afghanistan
- Wall Street
- GM
- the health-care fiasco
- the Olympics
- the White House czars
- the Mao fan who was White House communications director
- bowing here and bowing there
- Iran
- Israel
- Honduras
- Guantanamo
- etc etc etc

What principles are you talking about?

Posted by: tropicalfolk | December 18, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

What principles?

Posted by: GordonShumway | December 18, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

The United Nations Climate Change Conference process is

Reducing CO2 emissions cuts growth capacity of plants
necessary for SURVIVAL.

Signing a BINDING AGREEMENT under United Nations takes away FREEDOM.

Promising poor nations money to sign a binding agreement is bribery
to take their authority to govern their resources leading to conflicts and wars. The money promises are an illusion of money; it is held in the World Bank for solutions that do not exist, to problems that have not come, to unspecified nations with no details for transmission. It feeds the fear and greed of poor nations and becomes a take-over of governments to control them through climate change regulations. They can reduce their emissions without a binding agreement and the world will follow them.

CAP and TRADE is a loophole for rich nations to avoid compliance and
it invites and creates bribery, corruption, bondage and servitude.

New technology, jobs and money are not the solution; they continue the same employment lifestyle that pollutes our air, land, water and food leading to disease and death. The garden paradise lifestyle solves the world problems easily, fairly, and inexpensively. It is the only reasonable and sustainable solution.

The Employment Lifestyle Failed.
The Garden Paradise Life Wins.
Let's Learn the Lesson Now.
Marie Devine, Kansas City, MO, USA

Posted by: MarieDevine | December 18, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

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