Sen. Barack Obama’s international globe-hopping to the Mideast and Europe was meant to burnish his credentials as a foreign policy and potential military leader – the strong suit of his Republican rival Sen. John McCain.
Despite the media love fest over the political junket, Obama has yet to pull away from McCain in the polls. His campaign had expected a minimum eight-point lead after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination back in June, with even more momentum moving his way as the campaign progressed.
Both the most recent Real Clear Politics rolling average and the Rasmussen tracking poll that coincided with the end of Obama’s trip this weekend show Obama with just a five-point lead over McCain -- consistent with his numbers for the past two months. [Press reports this weekend have almost completely ignored the Rasmussen poll to only report on a Gallup poll, which showed Obama with a nine-point lead. Not as good as the Newsweek poll from June, which had Obama 15 points ahead of McCain.]
With President Bush suffering low approval ratings, the economy moving into a recession as gas prices surge above $4 a gallon, and growing resentment about the unending war in Iraq, Obama should be pulling away in the polls.
But he isn’t.
The Obama campaign has been quick to be out front on the bad news, claiming -- at the end of the trip -- it never expected a poll bounce from Obama’s trip anyway.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told Politico’s Mike Allen: “We wouldn’t expect any sort of -- I guess the term people use is ‘bounce.’”
In fact, during Obama’s global meet-and-greet tour, McCain’s poll numbers have risen in key battleground states like Ohio.
As crowds cheered Obama globally, Americans here on the homefront were left wondering if the Illinois senator wants to be their president -- or the president of some other country. [And whether the major U.S. media would at least offer the pretense of objectivity. An MSNBC poll from last week found that 47 percent of the public thought the coverage of Obama’s trip was “excessive.”]
After Obama’s speech to an estimated 200,000 Germans in Berlin, a columnist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper began his review this way: “Barack Obama has found his people. But, unfortunately for his election prospects, they're German, not American.”
Obama's speech to the Germans left much to be desired, from an American’s perspective.
For starters, the crowd’s size was beefed up by the fact that the event was billed as a free rock concert for German citizens, with popular musical performers helping to draw the big crowd. Scant U.S. media even noted the warm-up rock draws of reggae artist Patrice and rock band Reamonn.
Then there was the simple stage, with the podium surrounded by three potted plants. Missing was the American flag -- nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Obama’s staff might consider the U.S. flag offensive.
And then there was his speech, in which he proudly proclaimed he was in Germany as a “a fellow citizen of the world.”
And there was the spectacle of the presidential wannabe going to a foreign land to apologize about the United States.
Obama told his German audience he was sorry about his country because “I know my country has not perfected itself.” [This comment was made in the former seat of Nazi power. A letter to editor published in Obama’s hometown Chicago Tribune noted the irony: “While America may not be perfect, there is no reason to apologize to the Germans, architects of the Holocaust.”]
As for America’s role in saving Germany from the onslaught of Stalinist communism and the subsequent Cold War, there was nothing.
There was a rhetorical flourish about the Berlin Wall coming down, but nothing about the great American sacrifice, not to mention how our military might made President Reagan’s call -- “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev” -- a reality.
There was a fleeting mention of the famous Berlin airlift of 1948 that President Truman ordered to thwart the Soviet blockade that sought to starve West Berlin.
As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote, “Obama seemed to go out of his way not to say plainly that what saved Berlin in that dark time was America's military might.
“Save for a solitary reference to ‘the first American plane,’ he never described one of the greatest American operations of the postwar period as an American operation at all. He spoke only of ‘the airlift,’ ‘the planes,’ ‘those pilots.’ Perhaps their American identity wasn't something he cared to stress amid all his ‘people of the world’ salutations and talk of ‘global citizenship.’”
The Hollywood-staged Obama event for a man who has yet to ascend to the presidency didn’t sit well with all the Germans. Germany’s Stern magazine carried the headline "Barack Kant Saves the World."
One of their columnists, Florian Güssgen, wrote: "The man is perfect, impeccable, slick. Almost too slick … Obama's speech was often vague, sometimes banal and more reminiscent of John Lennon's feel good song 'Imagine' than of a foreign policy agenda."
Slickness without substance seemed to be the enduring theme of his trip. Among the little hiccups covered up by the major media, there were several gaffes on the global coronation trip.
Perhaps the most notable -- and reprehensible -- was Obama’s decision to cancel a visit to wounded American soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southern Germany.
Apparently, the Pentagon informed Obama that since his visit was a political one, the hospital visit would be only open to him and his official Senate staff. This excluded the press and campaign officials.
The Pentagon did offer to allow Obama’s campaign plane to land at the nearby U.S. air base at Ramstein. The media also was to be accommodated there.
Without the photo opportunity and his press entourage, Obama declined to meet the wounded soldiers. At first, Obama’s campaign claimed to the press he decided to cancel the trip to visit the troops because it was "a trip funded by the campaign," and therefore somehow inappropriate. [What is inappropriate about a presidential candidate visiting wounded troops?]
But the Obama story belies the fact it was only after the Pentagon closed the event to his traveling press, that Obama’s campaign nixed the event.
Rightfully, McCain noted that it is never inappropriate for a candidate or official to visit U.S. troops.
"If I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn't visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event," McCain said.
McCain continued the attack on ABC News Sunday show “This Week”: “Those troops would have loved to see him, and I know of no Pentagon regulation that would’ve prevented him from going there” without the news media.
The McCain campaign has been quick to pounce on Obama’s obvious slight to the troops and double-talk, airing a new commercial this weekend.
“And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops,” the ad says. “Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops.”
McCain added that Obama “certainly found time to do other things."
One of those other things Obama did was visit Paris and hold a joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, typical of an American president visiting the French capital.
Interestingly, The New York Times quoted Elysee officials that “Obama aides insisted that an American flag not be displayed alongside the French flag because Mr. Obama is only a visiting senator and not the president.”
There is no protocol preventing an American official from having the flag displayed when abroad.
America snubbed once again by a lame excuse.
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