I can’t get over the media circus surrounding Senator Barack Obama’s current trip to the Middle East. Never mind that Senator John McCain’s recent trip overseas hardly made the nightly news (we will just chalk that up to another instance of media bias), but the fact that the world went crazy as soon as Obama stepped on the plane means something deeper is being established here. Apparently, Obama’s handlers and the national media have deluded themselves into believing the hip presidential candidate can transform himself into some sort of super-diplomat simply by spending a few hours in some war-torn countries. Need to burnish some foreign policy credentials for your presidential campaign? No problem, just hit the road to the remotest regions of the world and voilà – instant international policy expert.
I’m not saying that McCain is completely innocent of such tactics, heck no politician is. Many in Washington were scratching their heads while he was traipsing through the jungles of Colombia last month – burning precious time reserved for the campaign trail. But then came the freeing of hostages held by the FARC Colombian rebels, and McCain looked, well, presidential. And really, that’s the whole point of these “fact-finding” missions – looking good for the cameras.
Perhaps these work vacations by politicians are more sophisticated than they first appear. Maybe Americans appreciate the fact that their presidential candidates are traveling beyond the confines of America and seeing the world firsthand. Perhaps, but do not be deceived. These are trips staged to the finest detail, with little left to chance and happenstance. Obama and McCain know this, and they have treated it as such – an extension of their political campaigns. Why do you think the network anchors are along for the ride? It is surely not because of the news quotient that the “surge” is working. What they gain can be debated, but what they “earn” the right to say during and after these trips seems quite baseless.