President Obama’s absence this week from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was understandable in American political terms, but a costly no-show for U.S. international relations.
Republican lawmakers, as they pursue tactics that try to suggest the President is refusing to talk to them, surely would have tried to take advantage of his absence from Washington to claim that he cares more about the opinion of foreigners than the fate of America. The country’s well-being and credit are at severe risk in the name of the Tea Party’s efforts to stain Mr. Obama’s presidency.
The cost to the United States in Asia is substantial. Chinese President Xi Jingping attended the summit in Indonesia, demonstrating to delegates from the other 20 countries that his behemoth nation is there to stay. He suggested the United States, represented by Secretary of State John Kerry, considered APEC and another East Asia forum Mr. Obama was scheduled to attend to be lesser priorities.
Foreign leaders at the summit expressed concern that Washington will not behave responsibly. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wouldn’t have come either if he were in the same situation as Mr. Obama — a backhanded expression of sympathy.
The Chinese president came with a pot of money — a new $50 billion infrastructure bank that the United States could not have matched unless China had been willing to lend Washington the money.
The countries at the APEC summit represent 40 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of global gross domestic product, and 44 percent of world trade. Because of a handful of irresponsible congressmen, Mr. Obama missed the meeting and what it offered in terms of U.S. economic opportunity. It is another casualty of the Capitol’s chaos.