The White House says President Barack Obama has canceled a planned meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, after the blustery Philippine leader, in comments to reporters, used a vulgarity in referring to the U.S. commander-in-chief.
Obama said earlier that he planned to use an expected meeting with Duterte at a summit in Laos to raise the issue of more than 2,000 extra-judicial killings of suspected Philippine drug dealers and users since Duterte took office in June.
For his part, Duterte has defended his support for the killings, saying he is following the will of those who elected him. Then, before departing Manila on Monday for the Lao capital, Vientiane, he warned Obama: “You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions.” Using the Tagalog phrase for “son of a bitch,” he then said: “Putang ina, I will swear at you in the forum.”
Obama initially shrugged off Duterte’s comments, noting that “clearly [Duterte] is a colorful guy.” But he also said the planned meeting hinged on whether Duterte was prepared for “constructive, productive conversations.”
Hours later, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the Tuesday meeting with Duterte had been canceled and that Obama would instead meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Duterte, who campaigned for the Philippine presidency on promises to end illegal drug activity in his homeland, has alarmed an array of human rights organizations with his deadly crackdown. He also has vowed to defend police and the Philippine military carrying out his orders, even at the cost of his own possible imprisonment. (VOA)
Former U.S. president Barack Obama, who has maintained a low public profile since leaving office, entered the midterm election battle Friday with a simple message to America’s youth: “You need to vote because our democracy depends on it.”
“A glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different. The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire,” Obama told students at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, where he accepted an ethics in government award.
In keeping with tradition, Obama has been reluctant to publicly comment on his successor, U.S. President Donald Trump, despite the fact Trump was a frequent critic of Obama.
The former president said the current state of Washington politics “did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. A fear and anger that’s rooted in our past but is also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.”
Obama implored the students “to show up” at the polls in November, noting that only one in five young eligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election.
“This whole project of self-government only works if everybody’s doing their part. Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t matter,” he declared.
President Trump was dismissive of Obama’s speech.
“I found he’s very good, very good for sleeping,” Trump told a crowd of supporters at a fundraiser in North Dakota.
Obama’s appearance at the central Illinois university campus was the first of several campaign events in the coming weeks at which he will urge Democratic voters to cast ballots in November’s midterm elections to take control of Congress from Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
The former president also will attend a Southern California event for seven Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives in Republican-controlled districts that supported Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump two years ago.
Obama will campaign in Ohio next week for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, a former Obama administration official.
He will return to Illinois later this month and then appear in Pennsylvania, a key state that Democrats hope will help deliver the 23 seats needed to regain control of the House and stop the advancement of Trump’s agenda.
The Democratic and Republican parties have traditionally experienced sharp declines in voter turnout in non-presidential elections. But the November 6 election is widely perceived as a referendum on Trump, who regularly touts his accomplishments such as tax cuts and deregulation. However, a widening investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election that Trump won and more frequent questions about his fitness for office have cast a pall over his presidency. (VOA)