News & Politics

Obama to Strike Back at Critics at Home and Abroad in UN Speech

The United Nations will be today's vehicle for the presidential campaign.

US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Henry Maier Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 22. Obama will take a mere day out of his reelection bid for the UN General Assembly this week, and his flying visit will be shorn of

Tuesday morning, President Barack Obama is addressing the annual general assembly of the United Nations, where he will attempt to deflect recent criticism on two fronts.

First, the President will defend his administration against charges of weakness in the Middle East in the wake of recent turmoil which resulted in attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans, including US ambassador Chris Stevens. On Monday, the Romney campaign charged that the President's recent remark that the events were "bumps in the road" was an attempt to minimize the killings. Romney insisted that he would take a tougher stance on Middle Eastern policy than the President.

The President will also address foreign critics -- chiefly Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu -- who accuse him of not doing enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Obama will issue a warning that the U.S. will "do what we must" to block Iran's nuclear program.

The question underlying the speech is a politically loaded one: Is the President interested in supporting democracy in the Middle East, or rather authoritarian strong-men who  are pro-U.S.?

Six weeks before the presidential election, the UN address is really a campaign speech for Obama, and promises to be short on details and long on assurances that he, rather than Mitt Romney, is the leader that America -- and the world -- needs. The President's remarks will be closely scrutinized -- look for the Romney campain, in particular, to suggest that Iran will be a greater threat to the U.S. under Obama. To which Obama might retort that if it's yet another war that Romney wants, he should come out and say so.

Excerpts from Prepared Speech:

“The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded…

If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.

Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.”

“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.”

On Iran:

“America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

“People everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes from faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people – and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people, and all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows. And that is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.”

Lynn Parramore is an author and cultural theorist. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.