Nightly News   |  September 20, 2011

Perry criticizes Obama on Israel

The president thought coming to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting would provide a brief respite from the daily political grind of Washington. But GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry showed up and used a pro-Israel rally to attack Obama. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> good evening, representatives from around the world are here in new york tonight, part of a massive u.n. gathering that's clogged the streets and left the air filled with tension. there's real concern about some of the big explosive issues like the middle east , and a big showdown coming later this week. today something of a bombshell, rick perry , governor of texas, gop candidate for president came to new york and accused president obama of appeasement of the palestinian cause against israel. it added to a troubling time for the president who is, after all, playing host at this gathering. our chief white house correspondent chuck todd in new york covering the president. he's with us in the studio this evening. chuck, good evening.

>> good evening, brian. you know, the president now coming up to new york thought he might get a respite from the current domestic political climate. he's finding out all those political fires he's been struggling to put out have followed him here. president obama hoped his first full day in new york for the opening of the united nations general assembly would be a foreign policy victory lap as a new libya is welcomed into the family of nations.

>> after four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets free from a tyrant.

>> reporter: presidential politics intervened. rick perry showed up in new york and used a pro-israel rally to attack the president.

>> it's time to change our policy of appeasement toward the palestinians to strengthen our ties with the nation of israel .

>> reporter: perry's comments flew in the face of the white house campaign to thwart palestinian efforts for statehood through a u.n. vote.

>> we would veto any actions in the security council .

>> reporter: but perry is the least of the president's political problems right now. white house aids are defending the president's hardline stance on reducing the deficit, openly acknowledging he's abandoning the grand bargain approach he took with speaker boehner during the debt ceiling crisis. dan pfeiffer told the new york times, we were in a position of legislative compromise by necessity. that phase is behind us. but what's really kept the west wing busy this week is a damaging narrative in a new book "confidence men" by ron suskind . . an unflattering picture of the entire obama team in its first two years. the white house has questioned several anecdotes, including one quote where suskind quotes larry summers as telling peter orszag , you know, peter, we're alone. these mistakes would never have happen in the clinton white house .

>> once there tends to be a cartoon of a president, especially a president where the nation's got awfully big problems and it's an election year, that tends to take hold and is very hard to get rid of. president obama has taken to the "today" show on that piece about larry summers , saying summers denied it, but said he meant the meaning of the quote.

>> for them right now, it's all about timing. chuck todd covering the traveling president, traveling white house here in new york .

>>> another flurry of activity here