Obama to Paris, Berlin, London
After much speculation, Barack Obama's team has announced he will travel to Europe this summer -- to Paris, Berlin, and London (the dates have not yet been announced for security reasons, although the London stop is rumored to be planned as early as next week). John McCain visited Europe last March once it became clear that he would be the presumed Republican nominee, travelling with Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, talking about global warming, and meeting many European leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the third time. Just the same, McCain ran into questions about his support for the war in Iraq. Obama, presumably, should have an easier time here. He can say, "I know you disagreed with the war in Iraq, so did I." But as I've noted earlier on this blog, Obama is not likely coming to Europe just to listen to criticism about the past. When describing his planned trip, he noted pointedly that France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are our allies in Afghanistan where we can expect him to want Europeans to do more. Others such as Roger Cohen have suggested Obama should even broach asking for help on Iraq, a subject the transatlantic allies have largely agreed not to raise in polite company.
Even though Obama seeks foreign policy exposure, he will need to be careful from a domestic American perspective. John Kerry in 2004 was labeled as "too French" for his eagerness to consult with Europeans, and one can imagine those ready to criticize Obama if he appears "too European" in his views. The hubbub this week over whether Obama should speak at the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin has a domestic undertone apart from German concern that it would be campaigning abroad €“ Obama could be challenged for acting "too presidential" (a la JFK or Reagan) before he's won the election, just as he was criticized for using an image on his speaking podium that too closely resembled the seal of the U.S. presidency. All this suggests he will be walking a number of fine lines, even in front of a European audience that has been waiting breathlessly to meet him.
Update: Mitt Romney, former-Republican candidate for president recently declared that he thinks Obama"looks towards Europe for a lot of his inspiration" whereas McCain, he says,"is going to make sure that America stays America."
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