President Obama will try over the next few days to show he can advance more than one U.S. priority at a time. Just a day after opening time-sensitive discussions on tax and spending issues, Obama starts a trip that takes him 9,000 miles from Washington and its intense focus on the looming fiscal cliff. He’ll be talking about political prisoners, maritime disputes, emerging markets, and trade policy in public while keeping a hand in the capital’s fiscal debate from afar.

The president will be in Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia, attending Asian regional summits, celebrating the easing of repression in the nation formerly known as Burma, and meeting with Chinese leaders after an American political campaign that featured lots of criticism of Beijing. It is a trip that the White House views as crucial to the continued “rebalancing” of American foreign policy to reflect Asia’s growing political, economic and military clout on the world stage.

He will be absent from Washington for only five days – during a time when Congress is not at work negotiating a needed agreement on taxes and spending. Still, the trip has drawn criticism from the right and calls for Obama to cancel the travel until a deal is struck to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts collectively known as the fiscal cliff.

“Stay home,” demanded Fox News analyst Greta Van Sustern. “To resolve the fiscal cliff requires all hands on deck and the deadline is rapidly approaching,” she wrote in a commentary. She suggested he send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in his place, adding, “Americans deserve our leaders to do their jobs. This is a dropped ball.”

Read More:  National Journal