Blogs > HNN > July 28, 2008: Obama's Foreign Policy Tour, McCain on the Surge

Jul 29, 2008 12:27 am


July 28, 2008: Obama's Foreign Policy Tour, McCain on the Surge



PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH:

THE WEEK THAT WAS....

The week that was....

  • July 27, 2008: Barack Obama is rejecting Republican criticism over his trip to the Middle East and Europe. Obama commented"John McCain has visited every one of these countries post-primary that I have," he said."So it doesn't strike me that we have done anything different than the McCain campaign has done, which is to recognize that part of the job of the next president, commander in chief is to forge effective relationships with our allies." He also claimed the Republican suggested he needed the trip to show he was serious and credible in the area of foreign policy.
    According to analysts the foreign leaders Obama met with on his trip treated the Democratoc nominees as if he was already the President of the United States. The only exception was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who did issue a statement about his speech in Berlin, praising his message but also embarassing him stating that"she did not think the historic Brandenburg Gate was a suitable venue for a political event by a traveling American."
  • July 26, 2008: Obama is scoffing at McCain's criticism over his scrapping plans to visit wounded soldiers at a German military hispital. Obama was scheduled to visit the soldier, but cited Pentagon security concerns as the reason behind his cancellation. The Pentagon has denied issuing any concerns. McCain has been very critical that Obama cancelled his trip to visit the soldiers, and started to run a TV ad which chides that Obama"time to go to the gym" but not to visit the troops and did not go because it"Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras," and concludes"John McCain is always there for our troops." The ad is airing in Colorado, Pennsylvania and the Washington D.C. area.
  • July 25, 2008: An aide to Obama claimed that the Democratic candidate scrapped his planned visit to wounded soldier in Germany because the Pentagon said it would put the soldiers in the middle of campaign contraversay. In response McCain's campaign spokesman Brian Rogers stated"Barack Obama is wrong. It is never 'inappropriate' to visit our men and women in the military."

    On Friday, McCain met for 45 minutes with the Dalai Lama and the Republican candidate urge China to release Tibetan prisoners."I urge the Chinese government to release Tibetan political prisoners, account for Tibetans who have, quote, 'disappeared' since protests in March, and engage in meaningful dialogue on genuine autonomy for Tibet," McCain said. The Dalai Lama however, said he would not endorse McCain.

    On Friday, Obama continued his European tour meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy where they spoke at a press conference, and Sarkozy came close to endorsing Obama by calling him"my dear Barack Obama." During the conference Obama and Sarkozy sent"a clear message to Iran to end its illicit nuclear program."

    McCain spoke to Hispanic military veterans, and criticized Obama's opposition to the"surge" stating"We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right" and"Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened."
  • July 24, 2008: Obama commenced his day in Thursday completing the Middle East portion of his foreign policy tour. He made a short 15 minute pre-dawn visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall, where he bowed in prayer and put a note in the crevice of the wall. One heckler among the morning prayers screamed out"Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!"

    Obama started his European tour visiting Germany, France and England by meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama then spoke to a crowd of 200,000 people at the Victory Column in Berlin Germany where he asked Americans and Europeans to work together and"defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it."
    At the same time McCain was visiting the American heartland and a German restaurent in Ohio. At Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant in Columbus' German Village neighborhood, the Republican candidate ate bratwurst with local businessmen, telling reporters."I'd love to give a speech in Germany. But I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for president."
    McCain held a town-hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio on cancer with Lance Armstrong.

    Republican Chuck Hagel who accompanied Obama on his Middle East troop criticized McCain saying"Quit talking about, 'Did the surge work or not work,' or, 'Did you vote for this or support this,'" and"Get out of that. We're done with that. How are we going to project forward?"
  • July 23, 2008: McCain faced Democratic Party criticism about comments he made in a Tuesday CBS interview about when the surge in the Iraq War commenced. He claimed"Because of the surge, we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening." Explaining his comments McCain stated"A surge is really a counterinsurgency made up of a number of components. ... I'm not sure people understand that 'surge' is part of a counterinsurgency."
    Obama will spend $5 million on ads to air on NBC during the Olympics.
    Obama spent his only day in Israel touring and laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, took a helicopter tour of the country and visited Sderot, a town battered by bombs from Gaza. Obama met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his visit, and promised"I'm here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel's security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a U.S. senator or as president."
    Obama also"rode past an Israeli checkpoint into Ramallah on the West Bank" and he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assured him that he supports a Palestinian state living along with Israel.
    During a town hall meeting McCain credited President Bush's lifting the ban on offshore drilling for the"$10-a-barrel drop in the price of oil."
  • July 22, 2008: Upon arriving in Jordan, the first stop in his Middle East tour, Obama gave a press conference where he would not claim the troop surge help curb violence in Iraq. Speaking of Gen. David Petraeus' opposition to his proposed timetable Obama stated:"I think he wants maximum flexibility to be able to — to do what he believes needs to be done inside of Iraq. But keep in mind, for example, one of Gen. Petraeus' responsibilities is not to think about how could we be using some of that $10 billion a month to shore up a U.S. economy that is really hurting right now. If I'm president of the United States, that is part of my responsibility." In response a McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds stated"By admitting that his plan for withdrawal places him at odds with Gen. David Petraeus, Barack Obama has made clear that his goal remains unconditional withdrawal rather than securing the victory our troops have earned."
    Obama also met with Jordan's King Abdullah II.
  • July 21, 2008: Visiting Iraq, Obama and Sens. Chuck Hagel, (R) Nebraska, and Jack Reed, (D) Rhode Island issued a joint statemnt that Iraqi want a timetable for troop removal."Prime Minister Maliki told us that while the Iraqi people deeply appreciate the sacrifices of American soldiers, they do not want an open-ended presence of U.S. combat forces. The prime minister said that now is an appropriate time to start to plan for the reorganization of our troops in Iraq — including their numbers and missions. He stated his hope that U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq in 2010."
    McCain visited with the first President Bush and ridiculed Obama's military credentials, stating"When you win wars, troops come home. He's been completely wrong on the issue. ... I have been steadfast in my position." McCain also blamed the Democratic candidate for higher prices because he opposes offshore drilling and made the energy position central to a new campaign ad.
    The New York Times defended its decision not publish McCain op-ed which responded to Obama's July 14 one in the NYT about the Iraq War. They said they usually require the author's revisions and McCain did not agreed to it. However McCain camp released NYT Op-ed editor David Shipley e-mail where he wrote"that McCain's article would"have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator's Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan."
THE STATS

The Stats

  • CNN's"poll of polls" this past week reported Obama leading John McCain 44 percent to 41 percent.
  • July 25, 2008: According to surbey by nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center Hispanics support Sen. Barack Obama for president over Republican Sen. John McCain, 66 percent to 23 percent, with 11 percent undecided. - The Desert Sun, CA, 7-25-08
  • July 24, 2008: A Gallup Poll Daily tracking claim that Obama and McCain are running 45 percent for Obama to 43 percent for McCain.
HISTORIANS' COMMENTS

Historians' Comments

  • Harold Cox, professor emeritus of history at Wilkes College on"Small-town Pennsylvanians still unsure of Obama and McCain"
    "It's old, it's white, it's conservative and it's Democratic," said Harold Cox, professor emeritus of history at Wilkes College. People here grew up Democratic, and Democratic nominees carried Luzerne and Lehigh Counties in every election since 1992. - McClatchy Washington Bureau, DC, 7-27-08
  • Gil Troy, a McGill University history professor and presidential scholar on"A Kennedyesque future may await Obama":
    "The Kennedys' moving into the White House in 1961 was a cultural bombshell. You had this beautiful, glamourous young couple with small adorable children plus the Kennedy mythology behind it. For Irish Catholics, it meant, 'we made it.'... There will be, as there always is, a downturn after the initial honeymoon, and it will be a test of the African-American community as to whether they can deal with him being treated like anybody else." - London Free Press, CA, 7-27-08
  • Gil Troy on"Barack Obama's mad rush toward the middle":
    But Gil Troy, for one, perceives that Obama is returning to his centrist origins, as well as heeding the rules of post-primary positioning."When you read Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, or when you hear his 2004 speech to the Democratic convention," Troy says,"that's a much more centrist vision than what we saw in the primaries...." - Montreal Gazette, 7-23-08
  • Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia discussing town hall meetings in swing voting areas in"McCain stresses energy policy, slams Obama":
    "He gets lots of local ink out of them, in places where he needs to do well," said Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. - McClatchy Washington Bureau, DC, 7-23-08
  • Robert Dallek on"Bush Failures May Force McCain, Obama to Make Like FDR in 2009":
    "What a burden the next president is going to confront," says Robert Dallek, a presidential historian and biographer of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson."It'll be like Franklin Roosevelt coming in, in 1933." - Bloomberg, 7-20-08
  • Stephen Hess on"Bush Failures May Force McCain, Obama to Make Like FDR in 2009":
    The next president is"going to wake up very quickly to the fact that the economy so overwhelms everything else," says Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. - Bloomberg, 7-20-08
  • Douglas Brinkley on"Barack Obama lands in Afghanistan on first leg of world tour"
    "If Obama says he represents a new politics, he's certainly smashing an old paradigm by going," the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, of Rice University in Texas, told the Philadelphia Inquirer."And for 10 days, he'll own the media. It's gigantic for him." - Guardian, UK, 7-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University on"Fierce pressure on Obama in Europe-Mideast tour":
    "This is one of those things that is high risk, but he has no choice," said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, noting polls that show voter disquiet over Obama's inexperience."If he pulls this kind of trip off, it is a huge payoff because this is his only real weakness at this point." - AFP, 7-17-08
  • David R. Colburn is a professor of history at the University of Florida"McCain as Truman, Obama as RFK":
    ...McCain reminds me a lot of Harry Truman. I know: Truman was a Democrat. But like Truman, McCain does not hesitate to speak his mind. He has also been accused of being impatient and having a temper, much like Truman. Some partisans take issue with McCain's unwillingness to conform to the party line, but, as with Truman, he seems to understand that the issues facing the nation are so complex that only a bipartisan approach will ensure successful solutions. ... Obama lacks the experience of McCain, but he is one of the brightest minds that has appeared on the national political scene since World War II. I am not easily taken in by a candidate's speaking ability or rhetoric, but Obama has made me a convert. He reminds me a good deal of Robert F. Kennedy, in that Obama has a magnetic quality when speaking to audiences and an incredible skill at pulling diverse audiences together.... - Orlando Sentinel, 7-17-08
  • Charles J. Holden and Zach Messitte: Choosing a No. 2:
    ....As Senators Obama and McCain ponder a running mate, they would do well to weigh carefully the tactical and the practical benefits of their top choices for the No. 2 spot.
    Voters, for their part, should demand that the presidential nominees think beyond November and reward the candidate who selects a running mate who adds both political and policy benefits to the ticket. - Baltimore Sun, 7-14-08
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL...

On the Campaign Trail....

  • John McCain interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week, July 27, 2008

    ABC's George Stephanopoulos:"There's also been a flap about Senator Obama's decision in Germany not to visit the troops at Landstuhl. He now says that, based on what he was hearing from the Pentagon, there was no way that wouldn't be seen as a political trip, which is why he decided not to go. Do you accept that explanation?"

    John McCain:"Well, I know this, those troops would have loved to have seen him. And I know of no Pentagon regulation that would have prevented him from going there without the media and the press and all of the associated people. Nothing that I know of would have kept him from visiting those wounded troops. And they are gravely wounded, many of them."...

    "In Landstuhl, Germany, when I went through, I visited the hospital. But the important thing is that, 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. And so, I believe he had the opportunity to go without the media. And I'll let the facts speak for themselves."...

    "There was nothing to prevent him from going, if he went without the press and the media and his campaign people. But we'll see what happens."

    "I think people make a judgment by what we do and what we don't do. He certainly found time to do other things."
  • Remarks by John McCain to the Americans with Disabilities Conference, July 26, 2008

    ... One of the most fundamental principles of all is that the presence of a disability should not mean the absence of choice. When the government does its duty by extending aid to Americans with disabilities, it should not do so in a heavy-handed way that restricts personal freedom. I will work to enact legislation that would build on the principles of the Money Follows the Person Initiative, while also keeping my commitment to a responsible budget. The offer of assistance in living with a disability should not come with the condition of perpetual confinement to an institutional setting. The great goal here should be to increase choices, to expand freedom, to open doors, and to allow citizens with disabilities to live where they want and to go where they wish.

    Everyone who seeks the presidency brings to the office his or her own experiences. And one of the finest experiences in my life has been to witness the power of human courage to overcome adversity. I have seen it in war, in prison camps, and in military hospitals. I have seen the capacity of men and women to overcome the hardships, challenges, and bad breaks that life can bring our way. How we face such obstacles can define our lives. And how we support one another at those times can define the character of our country. You at the AADP have seen these same qualities of courage, determination, and grace -- you have seen them in each other. And when you enlist your fellow citizens in the cause of equality and fairness for Americans with disabilities, you call upon the best that is in our country.
  • Remarks By John McCain At The American GI Forum, July 25, 2008

    ....Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn't just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better....

    Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later:"My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now." His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn't have been more wrong....

    Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. Terrorists would have seen our defeat as evidence America lacked the resolve to defeat them. As Iraq descended into chaos, other countries in the Middle East would have come to the aid of their favored factions, and the entire region might have erupted in war. Every American diplomat, American military commander, and American leader would have been forced to speak and act from a position of weakness.

    Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth. From the early days of this war, I feared the administration was pursuing a mistaken strategy, and I said so. I went to Iraq many times, and heard all the phony explanations about how we were winning. I knew we were failing, and I told that to an administration that did not want to hear it. I pushed for the strategy that is now succeeding before most people even admitted that there was a problem.

    Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting the success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he had always predicted it. There have been almost no sectarian killings in Baghdad for more than 13 weeks. American casualties are at the lowest levels recorded in this war. The Iraqi Army is stronger and fighting harder. The Iraqi Government has met most of the benchmarks for political progress we demanded of them, and the nation's largest Sunni party recently rejoined the government. In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory.
  • Obama's Speech in Berlin

    ....Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

    That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.

    The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

    We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

    So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other....

    Now the world will watch and remember what we do here - what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

    Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words"never again" in Darfur?

    Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

    People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.

    I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

    But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

    These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on the world.

    People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.



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