Despite a couple of obvious missteps, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama burnished his foreign policy credentials during his recent whirlwind trip to Europe and the Middle East. He attracted big crowds and fawning media coverage and looked young and vigorous while his Republican opponent, John McCain, looked old and tired. Nevertheless, Obama and McCain are still locked in a tight race for the presidency.
While Obama spoke to 200,000 enthusiastic Germans in Berlin, McCain ate Bratwurst at a German restaurant somewhere in Ohio. Although I think it was a mistake for the Illinois senator to make a campaign speech in Germany, he certainly looked and sounded "presidential" and in American politics, perception is reality.
"Now tell me again whose bright idea was it to challenge Obama to go to Iraq and Afghanistan," observed one of my more politically astute friends. "Obama received universally positive coverage on his nine-day trip. Hey, great idea, McCain staff." I don't know who's running McCain's presidential campaign, but they must be a bunch of amateurs. Obama delivers soaring speeches to enraptured audiences while the Arizona senator, a genuine American hero, engages in a series of dreary town hall meetings in small cities (like Reno/Sparks) and towns around the country, where he snipes at Obama for advocating "defeat" in Iraq and "the audacity of hopelessness."
So far, this presidential election campaign looks to me like the New Politics vs. the Old Politics and although some of my best friends are senior citizens, I fear that McCain is losing ground to his youthful challenger. I still haven't decided who I'm going to vote for in November, but if McCain doesn't energize his campaign sooner rather than later, Obama will be a shoo-in to become our next president.
In a column titled "Ich Bin Ein Obama," Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that Team Obama controlled both the message and the visuals during his foreign tour. "It's not only Obama's youth, eloquence and energy that have stolen hearts across the Atlantic," gushed the usually more restrained Associated Press.
"Obama has raised expectations of a chance for the nation to redeem itself (overseas)." Although most American voters won't be swayed by English, French, German and/or Iraqi endorsements, it's apparent that Obama is a big favorite with foreign audiences.
Liberal and conservative commentators agreed that Obama's foreign tour was highly successful. Ultra-liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich said it would be a mistake "to dismiss Obama's magical mystery tour through Old Europe and two war zones as a media-made fairy tale." According to Rich, Obama "would never have been treated as a president-in-waiting ... if all he offered were charisma, slick rhetoric and stunning visuals." Instead, Rich added, he also offers "the power to start shaping events and the power to move markets, including TV ratings."
"In a stunning upset, Barack Obama won the Iraq primary," wrote conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, a McCain supporter. "When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ... expressed support for a U.S. troop withdrawal on a timetable that accorded roughly with Obama's 16-month proposal, he did more than legitimize the plan. He relieved Obama of a major political liability by blunting the charge that ... (he) was willing to jeopardize the astonishing success of the 'surge' and risk losing a war that is finally being won." Yes Charles, it's being won militarily, but political reconciliation between warring Sunnis and Shias is still a long way off.
President Bush and Sen. McCain were left to wonder what al-Maliki was up to. Simple, Krauthammer replied. The Iraqi Prime Minister had decided to cast "the earliest and most ostentatious absentee ballot of this presidential election." Of course foreigners can't vote in American elections but if they could, Sen. Obama would be our next president. No doubt about it.
Those of you who don't care about the future of our city or our state should stay home on Primary Election Day, Aug. 12. For those of you who care, however, here are my primary choices: Carson native Bob Crowell for Mayor, Supervisor Richard Staub, Family Court Judge Deborah Schumacher for Supreme Court, Jim Wilson for District Judge, and Dave Cook for the State Board of Education. See you at the polls. But first, a reminder: Early voting runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, Aug. 8, at the Carson City Courthouse.
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, has been a Carson City voter since 1962.