Anticipation for Obama
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, there was clearly great anticipation for President Obama's first speech to the General Assembly. Every seat in the hall was taken, many by heads of state, and it was standing room only.
And he was interrupted by applause, I would say, 9 or 10 times, the first time when he reminded them that on day one of his presidency he'd signed an executive order outlawing torture.
That said, the setting is still a rather restrained one. I mean, this is not like a political campaign rally, and no one would confuse the two kinds of events. Still, when he finished, there was sustained applause, not a standing ovation, but very vigorous and sustained applause.
Now, afterwards, we caught up with a few other people that were not in our taped piece. I actually saw President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who said to me, well, he was very encouraged, because President Obama indicated he wanted to reach out to the rest of the world, instead of dictate.
On the other hand, my producer ran into or managed to snag the Iranian foreign minister, asked what he thought of the speech, and the foreign minister replied with a smirk, "Did he say something?"
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, I gather the speaker who followed the president presented a very different side of the United Nations.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes, Judy, kind of the old side. This was Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader. And the hall, after President Obama spoke, everyone sort of got up, and they were all milling around, and talking, and greeting Hillary Clinton, and everyone on the floor.
So, finally, everyone settled down. And most people went back to their seats, because there was great anticipation for Gaddafi.
But then he stood up there and he began this long, rambling rant. He clearly didn't have a script. He would pause for long periods, looking for something in his notes. He talked about everything from his complaints about the U.N., you know, political system internally to suggestions that Israel was behind JFK's assassination, to his own personal sleep habits.
And after about 10 minutes, I was sitting up above with a lot of the press, you just saw people kind of quietly taking their earpiece off and putting it down, and then just finding a moment where they could just get up and walk out.
It really was the old, you know, rhetorical posturing. At least that's the way it appeared to many, many delegates in the hall just from talking to them afterwards.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So back on the president's speech, is there any evidence, Margaret, of specific support for the issues the president raised?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, let's take Iran and North Korea, because those are two that have been so central to his efforts. And, you know, it is still a work in progress.
Now, when he started his presidency, it's fair to say that neither China nor Russia were very enthused about any tougher U.N. measures against either North Korea or Iran to restrain their nuclear programs. Yet by the summer, in part because North Korea set off a lot of missiles and so on, but still, after a lot of negotiation, the U.S. managed to get a very tough Security Council resolution imposing tougher diplomatic and economic sanctions on North Korea.
Iran, however, which is topic number one for the president this week, on that I would say the jury is still out. The president brings it up in every private meeting. I'm told that with the Chinese president yesterday in their meeting, President Obama was very emphatic, very urgent in saying this is a central issue for American security. He didn't ask for something right then and there, but he was really trying to impress on President Hu, with whom he's developed a relationship, that this is important.
Now, just concluded was his meeting with President Medvedev of Russia. And I have to say that what they came out and said had to have been encouraging to the U.S. The president said, if Iran doesn't respond to the negotiating offer that the West and Russia and China have made, serious sanctions remain a possibility. And Medvedev said, and I quote, "Sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases, sanctions are inevitable."
And so I would say that still today and this evening there are meetings, trying to make sure they have a joint position going into these talks with Iran on October 1st.