(CBS News) When it comes to foreign policy, both President Obama and Mitt Romney may very well want to adjust the narrative of recent weeks. At two international forums in New York City this week, both presidential candidates may have the opportunity to do so.
After days of turmoil in the Middle East that's raised new questions about Mr. Obama's strategy abroad, the president will deliver remarks at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. His speech gives him the opportunity to defend his foreign policy record and highlight his accomplishments. Off stage, the administration will engage with other U.N. members on a number of daunting issues, including the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, Iran's nuclear ambitions, turmoil in the Middle East and stability in Afghanistan.
That same day, the president addresses the Clinton Global Initiative, also in New York City. Mitt Romney will also deliver a speech at the forum on Tuesday. The Republican presidential candidate has the chance to recalibrate his campaign message after some perceived missteps, such as his response to the crisis in Libya, and campaign distractions like the recording of his remarks at a private fundraiser. Given that the event is hosted by one of Mr. Obama's strongest surrogates, former President Bill Clinton, Romney will also have the opportunity to dial down the partisan rancor that both parties have fueled and take a statesmanlike tone.
A more somber time, a more pragmatic president
When Mr. Obama addresses his foreign counterparts at the U.N. this week, he will face some difficult realities that didn't exist last year.
"It's going to be more of a somber appearance, at a somber time," Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CBSNews.com.
The current turmoil in the Muslim world -- and the recent death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya -- stand in stark contrast to the hopeful tone Mr. Obama struck almost exactly one year ago, when he hailed the U.N.'s intervention in Libya. "This is how the international community is supposed to work," he said, "nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their right."
"Fast forward 365 days, and you've got a much more daunting, particularly regional, picture there," Patrick said.