Obama takes show onto global stage
His foreign-policy credentials will likely be tested as he travels abroad.
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The question is, what sort of presumptive Democratic candidate will his domestic audience see? Will it be someone reminiscent of John F. Kennedy – cool, articulate, and the center of cheering foreign crowds?
Or will it be a traveler more like candidate Jimmy Carter – an inexperienced, provincial politician on a learning tour?
For the Illinois senator, the inherent risks in his travel are intensified by the fact that he will visit the Middle East, a place where, for American politicians, every word counts and the smallest misstep can become a huge gaffe.
"For Obama this trip is essential," says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "If anything trips him up, other than race, it is going to be his lack of foreign experience."
Next week, Senator Obama is scheduled to travel to Europe, Israel, and the West Bank. Many details of the trip have been kept secret for security reasons, but he is expected to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In Berlin, he will deliver what his aides are billing as a major address on transatlantic relations.
On July 15, Obama reiterated his vow to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of becoming president, and said that if he were elected, Al Qaeda and Afghanistan would be his top foreign-policy priorities.
"By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe," said Obama in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington.
Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain criticized his rival for making a speech on strategy for Iran and Afghanistan before actually traveling to those countries. Obama has never been to Afghanistan, Senator McCain noted.