Washington — Rebuked by voters, President Barack Obama is turning overseas, heading to Asia for 10 days of diplomacy, tourism and dealmaking that could boost the battered chief executive and highlight his political skills on the world stage.
Obama risks criticism he’s fleeing the Democrats’ midterm election wreckage for friendlier territory as sets out today on the longest foreign trip of his presidency, a sojourn through India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan aimed at highlighting America’s increasing engagement with Asia.
The trip is anchored by must-attend gatherings of world leaders in South Korea and Japan, timing unconnected to Tuesday’s midterm elections. The abbreviated stop in Indonesia, where Obama spent four years as a boy, was already canceled and rescheduled twice.
In India, the White House is intent on showcasing its commitment to the world’s largest democracy, and U.S. economic engagement with a huge and growing trading partner. The administration also views strengthened ties with India and other Asian democracies as a counterbalance to China’s rising power.
The trip aims to “open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States,” Obama said Thursday. “And my hope is, is that we’ve got some specific announcements that show the connection between what we’re doing overseas and what happens here at home when it comes to job growth and economic growth.”
But this week’s Democratic bloodletting is sure to dog Obama to the other side of the globe as he readies for encounters with growing powers certain to be keenly aware of dealing with a newly weakened president backed by a divided Congress, its repercussions uncertain.
White House officials acknowledge Obama will have to spend some time overseas reassuring U.S. trading partners about the political changes in the U.S., but downplay any impact of the election on the president’s overseas agenda.
“Regardless of the election results, the president is committed throughout this whole trip ... to doing what is right for expanding U.S. exports and creating jobs here at home,” said Mike Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs.