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The Perils Of Foreign Travel

Maureen Dowd raises a good point about Barack Obama’s overseas travels: is ingratiating himself with Europeans going to win over Middle America? She writes:

Since he’s already fighting the perception that he’s an exotic outsider, he can’t be seen as too insidery with the Euro-crats. He doesn’t want a picture of him nibbling on a baguette to overtake the effete image of the Europhile John Kerry windsurfing. . .Even if Obama is treated as a superstar by W.-weary Europeans, some Obama-wary Americans may wonder what he’s doing there, when they can’t pay for gas, when the dollar is the Euro’s chew toy, when Bud is going Belgian and when the Chrysler Building has Arab landlords.

Well, even assuming that Americans can simultaneously care about gas prices and national security, there is a desire from many Americans (other than those who hang out at Aspen symposia) to not just see our president try to “get along,” but also to stand up for America. It would be nice if Obama could articulate in some fashion the accomplishments of his own country — in Iraq, in Colombia, in expanding free trade, etc. These are not just the accomplishments of a president, but of the country he seeks to lead.

If all he is going to do is apologize, confess, and avoid speaking ill of Americas enemies (or shy away from exhorting our allies to do better, in Afghanistan for example) he does run the risk that Americans will wonder whose interests — ours or that of some nebulous international public opinion — he values more. And if he’s afraid to confront the foreign press, some might legitimately wonder how equipped he is to deal with conflict and disagreement, which are, in the real world, inevitable in dealings with even the friendliest of countries.



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