Published July 16, 2009
Since taking office, President Obama has racked up more miles to his name than most astronauts. It's no surprise that the unseasoned and untested Frequent-Flier-In-Chief needs to get some ink in his passport, but the real question is, besides helping Obama brush up on his romance languages, what has he really accomplished overseas? The answer: not much.
At each summit, foreign leaders have been more interested in getting Obama's autograph than his thoughts on missle defense. When he's asked for cooperation from more troops in Afghanistan to help with Guantanamo detainees to climate change concessions, each time he's been rudely rebuffed.
When it comes to dealing with the most rogue of leaders, he's been bullied. Chavez purposely bum-rushed him with an insulting piece of propaganda for a photo-op. Putin gave a cavalier speech on the Cold War, forcing Obama to once again make concessions when he should have defended, not only the West, but also an accurate portrait of history. But when he sat across from our friend, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, he couldn't even give the man proper eye contact.
He's even embarassed the U.S. by dropping the ball when it comes to proper protocol. He gifted Britian's Prime Minister, arguably the longest and most valued ally of our nation, some DVDs; he gave Her Majesty the Queen an iPod with a selection of his speeches. Gee, you bloody shouldn't have. Really. You shouldn't have. He mind as well have given them an autographed sock he wore during inauguration.
Obama's mini study abroad adventures have cemented the notion that he's a international figure, but not an international leader. Bush may have been tough, but he was respected, and so was the United States. With all past Presidents, the ones who are limp and quick to concede our liabilties abroad weaken our standing and make us more vulnerable. Too bad Britain's leaders didn't give Obama a history book.
VICE PRESIDENT, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER/CONSERVATIVE
President Obama spent 25 days of his presidency doing what it took Phileas Fogg 80 days to do -- go around the world. He visited friends and those far less friendly; got mega-bling from the Saudis, lied to the pope about abortion in the Vatican and peaked at tail in Italy. It wasn't a complete waste of time. Obama used his premier trip to Egypt to recast U.S. relations with the Muslim world and sell out long-time ally Israel all in one visit. His trip to Russia was largely useless since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his puppet President Dmitry Medvedev have Georgia on their minds more than Ray Charles. Nothing Obama did changed anything and conservatives fear he'll drop missile defense to try and cozy up to the Russian bear. The whole series of trips 14 countries in all gives the impression that Obama wants global adulation more than the American presidency. Perhaps the next stimulus will include 300 million T-shirts declaring: "Obama toured the globe and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." At least he didn't start a war and every day there was one less here. Grade = 25.
LIBERAL COMMENTATOR/EDITOR, THE CLYDE FITCH REPORT
Cast your memory, if you would, back to 2001: an admittedly incurious, anti-"nation building" president had just been inaugurated and...what was that? A Navy reconnaissance jet had to make an emergency landing in China after colliding with a Chinese fighter that intercepted it? It sure didn't help, in those comparatively benign pre-9/11 days, to have a president so blase about and ignorant of the outside world that it called China a "strategic competitor." Here we have a president keenly, inexorably aware of the damage, the havoc, that president wreaked upon our foreign policy and global brand. President Obama has had little choice but to hit the ground running internationally, be it reaching out to the Arab world (in case a war against Iran must proceed this year) or acknowledging that international economic cooperation is the only way the U.S. will climb out of its mini-Depression. Also, so what if President Obama spends 14% of his term out of the country, managing foreign relations? That seems just about right -- unless you're an isolationist, that is, or unless you're eager to characterize the president as domestically neglectful. A dubious argument for the right to make, consider its paroxysms of hysteria over Obama's economic program.
"THE COWBOY LIBERTARIAN"/INDEPENDENT/COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT
"Leaders vow to strengthen ties as Ottawa swoons over Obama." Headline in The Winnipeg Sun
The first trip of the Obama Adulation and Apology Tour (OAAT) was uneventful with no real substance. No one or nothing to apologize for as Canada is a friend. Adulation is there as Canadians love the new President that isn't Bush. Some Canadians are worried that Obama will make America's healthcare system like theirs and then they won't have anywhere to go for real medical care. On a scale of 1 - 100 I give Obama a 75.
G-20 Summit in London, NATO in Strasbourg, Czech Republic and Turkey
OAAT begins. Leaders agree to big global stimulus. More aid to developing nations but no one asks when they will be fully developed. NATO commits 5000 more troops to Afghanistan. France sends the French Army's 3rd Battalion better known as the Fightin' Sommeliersand the Belgians send the Belgian Army's 6th Regiment better known as the Chargin' Chocolatiers. Adulation aplenty in Europe and apologizes to Turkey for taking out Saddam and Europeans for our previous boorish behavior. Declares end to the axis of evil. Did Kim Jong Il get the White House memo on that? Grade = 70.
Mexico City, Mexico
An obligatory trip just like Canada. Some of the president's staff gets swine flu. Nothing of substance happened yet the drug cartels continue to supply America's drug habit and paralyze Mexican society. At Summit of the Americas Chavez tweaks Obama and steals the show. Obama upset he was not the center of attention for once. Round 1 to Chavez. Grade = 70.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France
Nothing of substance accomplished. OAAT gets into full swing in Saudi Arabia and Cairo. Saudis elated that Obama is like Bush 41 and not Bush 43--a Brent Scowcroft-realpolitik-disciple -- meaningdo what you want just keep the oil flowing. Does contortions apologizing in Cairo for all the evil we have done to the poor Arabs. Gun sales in Israel spike. Visits Buchenwald and Dresden and comes close to making a moral equivalence argument regarding the horrors of the Holocaust and the U.S firebombing of Dresden during World War II. You're not even close, Barry. Goes to 65th Anniversary of D-Day and lets Sarkozy snub the Queen of England. However he does not apologize for our littering the Normandy beaches with our dead bodies and burned out tanks. Grade = 70.
Russia, G-8 Summit, The Vatican and Ghana
OAAT hits a cold Russian wall. No adulation as the streets are deserted in Moscow. Advance teams couldn't find any crowds for Obama to preen in front of. Putin schools him and Medvedev smiles and agrees to let us transit supplies to our troops in Afghanistan and also agrees to start a new START agreement on nukes. Missile defense of Eastern Europe is unresolved. Poles and Ukrainians are worried that Obama will sell them out on missile defense. G-8 defies God and says they will not allow global climate to rise more than two degrees by 2050. Pope Benedict gives Obama a book on the Catholic Church's position on bioethics. Ghana part of the trip was good as he reminded the world about the evils of slavery. Let's hope this is not a beginning of a plea for reparations as some in Congress are calling for. (NOTE: A week after Obama returns from Russia Medvedev signals that any missiles defenses in Poland will be met by Russian missiles near Poland. What a shock!) Grade = 70.