From NBC's Andrea Mitchell and John Holland
On a conference call this morning with reporters to discuss Iran and the U.N. Human Rights conference, Canada's conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper vigorously defended President Obama's handling of Hugo Chavez at this weekend's summit.
In response to a question about the criticism of Obama by some conservative politicians in the United States, Harper said that he is a conservative, but thinks that Obama's handling of Venezuela was effective at advancing America's values and interests.
"Let me be a bit of a conservative defender of the president in this regard," Harper said. "I was present obviously at all the meetings -- not the meeting between President Obama and the South American leaders, obviously wasn't at that. But I was present at the summit meeting, all of the plenary sessions."
"I thought President Obama did an excellent job of expressing the values, and priorities of the U.S. of America," he added. "I thought that he allowed ... a dialogue to take place in a good spirit to animate the room -- which I thought made the meetings productive. I think [it] made the U.S., took the U.S. to a higher plane than the Venezuelas of the world, and I think was very effective at moving the vast majorities of countries, reaffirming a very centrist position and very progressive position on the things that concern us: democracy, human rights, open markets, trade."
Harper concluded, "I know he got some criticism at home. But, you know, the U.S. is bigger than Venezuela in the end. The U.S. is the U.S., and I thought President Obama led in a way that was very effective at that conference."