Obama and Foreign Policy

In the last day or two, it seems that Obama has been getting a lot of flack for this statement:

Foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton and Senator McCain.

It was taken a little bit out of context by the Clinton and McCain camps to demonstrate what a naive neophyte Obama must be. After all, McCain has visited 69 countries as a senator and Clinton traveled all over as first lady. While certainly those experiences have value, it’s hard to imagine how such official visits would give those senators a perspective on the world’s people and how they live that’s much deeper than a tourist visiting Europe on a package tour.

Obama, on the other hand may not have the extensive foreign policy credentials (in the official Washington sense) that McCain has, but the time he spent as a child in Indonesia and in Kenya with his family had a profound effect on him in understanding how people live and what they believe. They are experiences that go way beyond official tourism, as anyone who has lived abroad for any extended period of time knows.

In Obama’s words:

“This I know. When Senator Clinton brags, ‘I’ve met leaders from 80 countries,’ I know what those trips are like. I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do a native dance. You meet with the C.I.A. station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of plant that” with “the assistance of Usaid has started something. And then, you go.”

I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

To be fair, yes, McCain did live in Vietnam for many years as a POW, and while his service was heroic, it doesn’t seem that kind of experience would be particularly helpful in forming a balanced view of the Vietnamese people.

In 2000, McCain said:

I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.

While he may have been referring to the prison guards, that kind of statement doesn’t demonstrate a strong understanding or sensitivity to people outside of this country that someone with Obama’s experience living and learning abroad might possess.

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2 responses to “Obama and Foreign Policy

  1. One of the reasons I’m voting for Barack is that I believe he has the qualities most needed as we try to undo the damage Bush has done.

  2. Kip, exactly. And for our next president to do so, an understanding of how people live outside of the US live will be quite helpful when making international policy decisions.

    Trip around the world as a senator or first lady just don’t cut it anymore.

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