Friday, July 25, 2008

Are there other implications for Obama’s World Tour?

While the news media ooos and ahhhhs over Barack Obama’s overseas trip and speech in Berlin, I’m left wondering if Obama’s campaign trip might have implications that his campaign, the media, and the US State Department have yet to consider.

We all know that Obama didn’t go on his world tour to spread “hope” to the rest of the world, he went because he needed to beef up his foreign policy credentials. He went because it will help him become the next President of the United States.

So here’s what I’m worried about. What happens when a candidate for Prime Minister or President of another country wants to have a campaign event in America? Does Obama’s world tour set a precedent that the United States will have to honor?

Now I don’t have any problems with what Obama said in his speech in Berlin yesterday, but would a foreign candidate use the same caution in a campaign speech here in America. I know it’s an extreme example, but what if that candidate was in the mold of Hugo Chavez? A candidate like that could probably score more political points in his country by coming to American and slamming us, rather than giving a speech without flammatory content. Is this a road that we really want to travel down?

Our State Department doesn’t recognize or enter into negations with some regimes around the world because doing so would elevate their status in the world. Look at how long it took for the US to allow Yasser Arafat to participate in official diplomatic proceedings.

I also have a difficult time seeing Obama in a foreign country speaking on behalf of American, when he isn’t elected or appointed by the people to do so. Heck, we don’t see Nancy Pelosi giving these types of speeches when she travels overseas.

I just find this troubling on a number of levels.


  1. I suspect I know what Krusty finds so troubling about Obama and his tour. Our guy is popular in this country and all over the world. Your guy is about as exciting as, well, maybe a badly overdone steak. After the big debacle, known and felt worldwide as the W administration, it is hard to overestimate the benefits of having a president who is actually liked and respected by our allies and other world leaders. Someone who is really going to be different from W.

    I also find it interesting that the party that so reveres its own “great communicator” now seems to despise Obama’s rhetorical skills and sunny optimism. And all the lazy pundits on TV and opinion pages who repeat R party lines (and to be fair, former primary rival lines) about Obama lacking substance and details, they should really spend some time and listen to his whole speeches and read his positions that are available online for everyone to see. There is an awful lot of detail there. More so than many other candidates have ever offered. But when the media only plays the rhetorical highlights of Obama’s speeches, it’s easy to continue the “no substance” distortions.

    And BTW Krusty, we have foreign politicians come to this country all the time to give speeches. Some of them are surely doing it close to their own elections and may use them for political purposes. Wasn’t Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York to give a speech not too long ago? W’s State Department could have surely stopped that if they wanted to. What’s new here?

    Did you also forget that Obama has been elected by the good people of Illinois to serve in the U.S. Senate. He also serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. Are Illinois voters somehow not American?

    To top this lengthy comment, I don’t remember R’s or media pundits questioning McCain’s motives when he was traveling all over the world after wrapping up the nomination. And do you really think it was a coincidence that the Colombian/US operation to free the hostages happened when McCain was visiting Colombia? Talk about inappropriate and questionable motives.

  2. I watched Obama's speech yesterday. It was anything other than overwhelming. He tripped on his lines, he stammered, it was not up to his normal standards.

    The underlying problem and Achilles heel for Obama is his unbelievable arrogance. He already thinks he's President of the United States, and now he's on a world tour to be President of the World. This trip is not a "fact finding" mission, it's meant to bolster his amazingly weak foreign policy street cred.

    American voters choose their President, not those whose greatest achievement was to bring the world mayonaisse or bratwurst.

  3. @rf

    > Our guy is popular in this country and all over the world. Your guy is about as exciting as, well, maybe a badly overdone steak.

    Well, you say "popular", but if you look at the polls, they are in a statistical tie:

    I think when you say "popular", you mean that ABC, NBC, CBS, and especially MSNBC can't stop raving about this man with nearly 3 years of experience as a US senator (of which 2 were spent campaigning).

    Let's see if Obama can energize the youth vote that is supposedly all for him to actually go out and vote for him. Actually, I'm a youth, that will vote, but not for him. And historically, young people don't vote, and every election I hear that they will, and then they stay home.

    Obama is an incredible speaker. I can understand why Europeans love him...he espouses their same socialist agenda. They love the socialist ideas of free* health care (*=nothing's free, you will be taxed more), social security, and guaranteed higher wages (free market be damned!).

    However, I'm a fiscal conservative, so I'm sure you can understand why I'm not voting for Obama.

    McCain is not as exciting as Obama. Absolutely correct.

    However he is a fiscal conservative, he has 7 times more experience than Obama as a US senator (21 years vs 3 years), and he has incredible character. He is not extreme on social issues, and if you really examine him his ideas stem from the belief in personal responsibility (I know, liberals hate that idea --- it's not *my* fault that I'm broke or don't have a job or don't have health care, it's the governments fault)

    Anyone that can be tortured for years and refuses when offered to go home early because he believes it is a propaganda move designed to embarrass the United States, has the kind of personal strength of character that we desire in a president. I don't think anyone can deny that we'd like to know all of our leaders had that type of courage...I know that I do, and I know that most of them don't (most republicans included in that).

    Come to think of it, McCain was a POW for 5 years to be exact --- that's 2 more than Obama has been a senator!

    Hopefully you'll take some of this the way it was meant to be taken --- it's a little antagonistic, but I meant these things in good sport. Obama is a good person, a great speaker, and a motivating force. However, I think his socialist leaning policies are wrong for this country. In the end, that is why he won't receive my vote.

  4. Anons,

    This is an absolutely fascinating discussion to have. Definitely worthy of a civilized debate.

    First, I need to acknowledge that in my opinion McCain was by far your best candidate. I think he would make a fine president and incredible improvement over W. Even though he was also the only candidate in the R field with a realistic chance to win come November, I was rooting for him to win the primary. After all, your guy has about 50-50 chance to be my president.

    Also, in no way am I disillusioned about the fact that McCain can certainly win this race. It’s not in the bag for Obama in any way. R’s have a very good track record of turning D candidates’ strengths against them. Think patriots Cleland, Kerry as recent examples. It could surely be done, on different grounds, against Obama. R’s will surely try to turn Obama’s popularity abroad against him. Today, it just may be a bit harder than in 2004.

    Any Obama backer who is honest must realize the man is not perfect and has obvious weaknesses as a candidate. Surely I would feel better if he had a bit more experience on the national level. But I do think it’s funny that conservatives are now pointing to McCain’s 20+ years in Washington as some sort of a great thing. I thought most conservatives think Washington is the problem. You would think Obama’s more versatile background (and still, more than 10 yrs in elected office) would appeal to many conservatives. State legislator background probably gives one much more insight into the real problems of this country than 20+ years in the DC bubble, not to mention Obama’s grassroots organizing. And I suspect after the W disaster, a constitutional law professor’s knowledge can’t be a negative either.

    Related to Obama and the world, I think this snippet is the main point of my argument: “it is hard to overestimate the benefits of having a president who is actually liked and respected by our allies and other world leaders.” – One must be a complete blind partisan not to realize this fact.

    I also find the whining about MSM funny. While there is lots of coverage of Obama, there is an awful lot of questioning about the trip, his motives, etc. None of that was done to McCain, not even with the unbelievable timing of the Colombian incident. The only thing MSM cares about is a tight horserace. That’s the story that sells. That’s why they love questioning everything Obama does, to keep the horse race going. They will always enjoy going after the frontrunner.

  5. Re: socialism. I wish more of you R’s actually looked in the dictionary for the actual meaning of the word. Here are a couple of definitions:

    1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
    2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

    None of the Western European countries are socialist. They have mixed economies, just like the US does. Government plays a critical role in all these countries. The proportions of the “mix” vary and that is definitely an issue worthy of a real political debate. But conservatives and R’s calling every proposal they dislike socialist or communist shows their ignorance. But of course, that type of ignorance makes for good politics.

  6. rf

    1)The U.S. is not running for the world's most popular country. Of course, we do want to have good relationships with other nations. But just because a candidate is likeable to people who otherwise know nothing about him, doesn't mean he is a diplomat or that he is establishing good relationships with other nations. Obama is doing nothing that will strengthen our position in the world by going to Europe and being "popular".

    2)It's really easy to talk about all the things you are going to do as president. Just because Obama has all these detailed plans doesn't mean they are good and doesn't mean they are even feasible. In fact, all that detail means they will probably be very difficult if not impossible to implement. All his detail is just part of his campaign. His entire campaign has been built on emotional messages and saying what everyone wants to hear, and it has worked well for him. But how is he going to implement all this stuff he plans? Does he have a plan? I don't think so! I've been on his website and explored some of the stuff. Many of his ideas are expensive, impractical, and contrary to many of his other positions. To many Obama supporters don't look beyond what they see and hear speaking to them or think about what it would do to our nation.

  7. Scary is the word I hear the most consistently used to describe Obama. We have no idea as to where his loyalties lie.

    Speaking about lying--this guy says one thing and the next day says something different. He's always trying to "refine" his positions, meaning he's trying to take both sides of issues, all the while fooling his supporters.

    If one actually listens to what he says in his so-called "magnificent" speeches, he says nothing better than anyone I've ever heard.

  8. "But how is he going to implement all this stuff he plans? Does he have a plan?"

    This is an issue with every single politician. If you have a problem with this, don't bother with politics. All a politician can do before an election is to say what he or she will do.

    About "refining" your positions. Again, applies to more or less every politician out there. Certainly McCain. And sometimes those refinements actually make sense. Often they are the same position looking at it from a different angle or using different emphasis. If you don't get that, don't bother with politics.

    After the W debacle, don't even mention anything about lying or misleading. It's a 100% winner for us D's.

    "Scary Obama." Talk about emotional bs. But, makes for effective politics.

  9. @RF

    >But conservatives and R’s calling every proposal they dislike socialist or communist shows their ignorance. But of course, that type of ignorance makes for good politics.

    No, it doesn't show ignorance, it does show flashes of anger. It's a loaded word, meant to conjure up ideas of Karl Marx. C'mon, I know you see through it. And you're right, it makes more good fun :-)

    I call things like universal health care "socialist" as hyperbole. I say it because I am trying to draw an exaggerated distinction between it and *more* capitalistic approaches.

    Health care is a problem in our country. We pay too much, but the answer is not tax-payer funded health care. The answer, I believe, lies in encouraging more competition. But I digress.

    >Related to Obama and the world, I think this snippet is the main point of my argument: “it is hard to overestimate the benefits of having a president who is actually liked and respected by our allies and other world leaders.”

    I agree 100%. However, I differ with the opinion that it is not the most important thing. George W. Bush has done an incredible job eroding any sense of inherent good will that foreign citizens and even allies have towards our government.

    I don't like this loss of our standing in the world, however I don't think a vote for McCain is a continuation of Bush's foreign policy. In fact, McCain and Bush are not real friendly and don't see eye to eye on most things.

    Remember, Bush is the person that smeared McCain in 2000 by suggesting to S.C. voters that he had a black baby out of wedlock. When in fact they were referring to the dark skinned daughter that McCain and his wife adopted from Bangladesh.

  10. > Scary is the word I hear the most consistently used to describe Obama. We have no idea as to where his loyalties lie.

    That's just paranoia. I'm voting McCain, but not out of fear for Obama.

    Let's stick to facts, not emotion.

  11. It is an issue with every politician, I agree. Obama's problem though, is the complexity of his plans and his lack of experience. Why should we believe in a guy with virtually no experience who says different things depending on what group of people he is addressing? Also, when you are talking about conservative politicians, you can trust them, for the most part, to fight for lower taxes, smaller gov't, etc. When a candidate is proposing some obscure unheard of solution to something he shouldn't be sticking his nose into, then you cannot trust them unless they have an actual plan. That is Obama right there.

  12. I had an opportunity to watch the German television coverage of Obama on the ZDF network. For about 15 minutes before his speech they were showing examples of why Obama is barely ahead of McCain in the polls. They showed video of him fumbling to put on an American flag lapel pin and his failure to put his hand over his heart when Hillary did so at the Harkin event last summer. They also showed his "57 states" clip and his statement that "Israel is a strong supporter of Israel" quote from a few days ago. They then switched back to live interviews and zeroed in on the two teleprompters at the Victory Column in Berlin where he was about to speak. They started to make jokes about it. So much for the hype about how all of the Germans are enamored with Barack Obama.

  13. Has there ever been a foreign government leader (or candidate) visiting the US and drawing a crowd of 200,000? (Other than the pope)
    rf nailed it - R's are frustrated their candidate is about as inspiring as a can of bulk fiber.

  14. RF
    "Did you also forget that Obama has been elected by the good people of Illinois to serve in the U.S. Senate."
    umm....He beat Alan Keyes. Barry's win was not remarkable. Keyes who wasn't from Illinois and he replaced a Republican candidate that was under investigation. Wow, now that’s a feet! Let’s pat Barry on the back for that and call him a seasoned candidate. Winning that race was like winning head scout for a boy scout troop.

  15. I recall that Howard Dean was the one pulling record crowds back in 2004.

  16. I was surprised by how subdued the crowd was for Obama. The predictions were that close to 1,000,000 would show up and instead it was 200,000.

  17. > rf nailed it - R's are frustrated their candidate is about as inspiring as a can of bulk fiber.

    But it only matters if all that "inspiration" gets 'em to the polls. Otherwise they are just pretty words.

  18. Nothing like a slower Friday to engage in good discussion with some R friends.

    Jpred, I have to disagree with you on that Obama says different things to different people and only what they want to hear. He was the brave, and possibly the first, politician who went to Detroit to say the big US car companies need to change and adapt. Not a friendly reception. He’s telling the African-American community to take responsibility for its own destiny. He’s the one telling black men to be there for their families and kids. He’s the guy who is telling teachers that for higher pay they need to perform. Yes, being a D politician, his comments on some of these issues may be tempered or nuanced. But for a D, he’s showing real guts on many issues, going against the mindless partisan orthodoxy – something I dislike on both sides of the aisle.

    And, did the conservative politician W and his R congressional friends bring us smaller government or fiscal responsibility?

  19. On healthcare, it is refreshing to see that most honest R’s are starting to admit we have serious problems. The fact that we spend much more $ than anyone else on health care and get much worse collective results is an undisputable fact. Realizing that all other civilized western nations have universal coverage of some sort, one must wonder if they are onto something. But, I don’t think we should copy someone else’s system without taking our existing system and realities into account. My bottom line is, we need to get everyone covered. We are the richest country on earth, we must be able to do it. If it takes tweaking our current system or getting the government more involved, I really don’t care. But giving tax credits on $10K yearly premiums, or whatever wishful-thinking proposals R’s have been coming up with, is not going to do anything to get coverage for someone making $8 an hour.

    Mr. Cotton is right about Keyes and the quality of his campaign, but that has nothing to do with the fact that Obama represents IL in the US Senate. Talking about tough campaigns, how about the fact that he beat the inevitable Hillary and the Clinton machine? Not an insignificant achievement.

  20. rf

    Obama saying that the U.S. car companies need to change and adapt is like telling the Iraqi or Afghan government they need to deal with their terrorist problem. Yeah it's right, but it's also pretty obvious. That doesn't require a lot of knowledge, foresight, or courage. Those big companies are rich and powerful for a reason, they know how to do their research and they will adapt accordingly. They don't need Barack Obama, John McCain, George Bush, or anyone for that matter telling them how to run their company.

    I honestly don't know anything about what he has been saying to the black community, but I'd certainly be willing to hear what he's said, do you have any links? If what you said is true then good for him, that is the kind of message that the African-American community needs to hear from their leaders. But is that a qualifier to be president?

    As for telling teachers they need to perform to get paid higher, his webpage doesn't really reflect that attitude. Does offering federal money for students to major in education sound like a good way to get good teachers? Students should go into education because they want to be a teacher, not because it is the cheapest route (The little section about funding a mid-career teachers education in exchange for making them stay in a certain area for four years is also ridiculous and counter-productive). Does extra funding to schools that are not performing sound like a good incentive for teachers to do better? How about instead we start rewarding excellence and not mediocrity. Why not give the schools that have good results more money to invest in their teachers and special education programs? Why don't we get the unions out of the schools and make it possible to get rid of the bad teachers that are in education just so they can be the first choice to coach the High School basketball team or because they just like not working the summer? Sounds like rather than giving teachers the false hope that if they perform better they will get paid more, we should just go ahead and make it possible for them to do a better job than they are already doing and reward the ones that are doing a proven job.

  21. Jpred,

    My main point was that he has been saying things that his target audiences may not want to hear. It still doesn’t mean that you agree with him. The one thing I like about both McCain and Obama is that they really are more straight-talking than your average pol. But they are still politicians, so obviously they both do their share of pandering.

    You are right in that what Obama said about the US car companies is very obvious. That’s why it’s is incredible that no other politician has had the guts to tell them the truth, certainly not on their own turf. I have to disagree with your assessment of the car companies’ abilities and expertise, though. Had they been on the ball, they would not be in such dire straits now and they would not be building crappy cars people don’t want to buy.

    The recent Jesse Jackson comment about Obama was directly related to what Obama has been saying to the black community. Just google Jesse and nuts, and you’ll probably get some leads. Obama also addresses the issue in “The Audacity of Hope.”

    Obama often mentions the teacher performance issue in his speeches. It’s understandable if you haven’t been exposed to as many of his speeches as I have over the last 1.5 years. If you know D party inside politics, it’s courageous to bring it up. But not surprising if his policy paper does not dwell on it.

  22. When Obama's teleprompter is taken away from him, he's a disaster speaking. His speech in Berlin is an embarassment to the people of America. The rest of the world thinks this guy is our cream of the crop. He's not.

  23. A babbling 3 year old would have better speaking abilities than our current trainwreck.

  24. Yeah, pretty funny hear R's criticizing Obama's rhetorical skills when the guys in your corner are W and McCain.