Obama to meet with foreign leaders

July 19, 2008 6:52:08 PM PDT
Barack Obama leaves this weekend for an important trip overseas. We know he's going to Europe and the Middle East, and he's expected to put Iraq and Afghanistan on his itinerary as well.

The campaign is doing its best to portray the trip as substance over politics.

The McCain campaign complained this trip is all for show.

The Obama campaign responded with a long list of leaders that Barack Obama plans to meet with on this trip. And even Republican strategists concede this trip is going to dominate the campaign's landscape.

As Barack Obama prepared for his first official trip overseas as a presidential candidate, his rival John McCain criticized him for making policy speeches without personal on the ground experience.

"It's the first time in my recollection, that someone has issued a policy statement on an issue, and then taken a trip, and for the first time to sit down with the commander-in-the-field, the first time to visit Afghanistan," said GOP presidential candidate John McCain (R) Arizona.

McCain's spokesman accused Obama of making the trip to Europe and the Middle East solely for publicity.

In a conference call with reporters, Obama's campaign advisor insisted it's not a political trip or rally of any sort.

"It is a serious of substantive meetings with our friends and our allies to talk about the challenges we face and the national security dangers for the 21st century," said Obama Communications Director Robert Gibbs.

At Stanford's Hoover Institution, Bill Whalen is a research fellow. He's also a Republican media consultant and concedes the trip is likely to be a big help to Obama.

"He's going to look like a president, he's meeting with foreign leaders, he's going to be mobbed by tens of thousands of people in Europe," said Whalen.

Obama's trip is expected to include stops in Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, France and Germany. Whalen concedes it will drive the campaign news coverage.

"Poor John McCain is going to go out and try and do things, it'll be dwarfed by what Obama is doing overseas," said Whalen.

But the trip is also a risk for the Obama campaign, says ABC7's Political Analyst Bruce Cain.

"Because of his fact finding trip, people are going to ask him well what did you learn, and has it changed your mind? So, it's a bit risky in the middle of an economic crisis to suddenly put so much emphasis on foreign policy," said Prof. Cain.

And the coverage will be huge. ABC, CBS and NBC are all sending their evening news anchors and each has been promised an exclusive interview with Obama.

If all goes well, it will be a big boost for the Illinois senator. If he makes a mistake, it will also draw a lot of coverage. So the stakes are high.


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