On Facebook, of which I’ve become a fan, there is a Google interactive travel map titled “Cities I’ve Visited.” I’ve ticked off 227 cities listed in 42 countries. Each place has a little pin in it noting Steve Clemons has been there.
But in my case, South America, Africa, and Central Asia are pretty big voids.
But what about the Presidential candidates. I asked all of the campaigns to send me their contender’s travel roster for trips outside the US since 2004. I don’t yet have all of the data, but I will keep working on it.
An early snap shot though has produced some gaps as stunning as my own record in semi-public view on Facebook.
The biggest void that caught my eye was that despite serving as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Europe, Barack Obama has not been there (unless we count Ukraine. . .but I’m not ready to do that yet) — at least not recently. This was a bit of a follow-up to a piece I wrote the other day that Obama did not call any issue or policy oriented hearings in the Subcommittee during his tenure.
I spoke to a senior foreign affairs adviser to Senator Obama who I ran into at the foreign policy wonk-packed holiday party of the Center for a New American Security.
This adviser, who must remain unnamed, said that he/she had worked very hard to get Obama to Europe this past year — but that in the end, a planned trip fell through. This person also admitted that despite his/her own efforts to move Senator Obama towards more focus on Transatlantic issues and the fact that nearly all of the major challenges facing the United States today required significant, robust collaboration with Europe — “Europe just isn’t high on the list of Barack’s priorities.”
As I’ve written, Obama gets Cuba right in my view. I think he should have used his brave and politically shrewd stand on nudging forward better US-Cuba relations as a template to push other kinds of principled American engagement in complicated world problems — just as he had suggested in the debates in his comments that he would be very pro-engagement even with the world’s leading thugs-of-state.
The Obama Campaign reported to me the following:
Barack Obama — International Travel
August – September
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On the experience side of things, Africa, Russia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Ukraine (which one could technically argue is now on the fringe of Europe — but I’m not in that camp yet) are clearly part of Senator Obama’s “experience portfolio.” According to Fareed Zakaria’s article that identity may trump experience, one might draw the conclusion that neither Obama’s ‘identity’ or ‘experience’ include serious exposure to Europe and its leaders.
I don’t buy Fareed Zakaria’s notion that somehow identity — meaning race, culture, language and the like — are more powerful than real world experience. Sean Wilentz goes after Zakaria’s argument pretty strongly.
There are many problems around the world — and it’s tough to be everywhere, but it does seem to me to be odd that only Moscow is on the list of capitals of UN Permanent Five nations. There is nothing on the roster from Europe’s major capitals. And on other fronts, if one wants real capital to do global institution building, Japan should be on the list. And this century, China is ascendant — and Obama needs to get to Beijing.
So, how do the others look?
In Hillary Clinton’s case, I was given a roster of travel by her Senate office, but it included not only her travel since 2004, but her entire official travel as a Senator. The material still tells an interesting story however.
Hillary Rodham Clinton — International Travel
Official Senate Trips
Afghanistan — Three Times
Canada — Two Times
United Kingdom — Two Times
Germany — Three Times
Iraq — Three Times
Ireland — Two Times
Israel — Two Times
Kuwait — Three Times
Pakistan — Three Times
Hillary Clinton’s travel profile tells a very different picture.
While she has also not been to China or Japan — two key global players — one has to remember that she did lead the American delegation to the Beijing International Womens’ Conference years ago — and thus there is high level travel in her past not represented in this snapshot. She did not go to Russia — and her trips to Africa are thin.
Both Obama and Clinton have voids when it comes to South America.
But again, Hillary Clinton has traveled the entire world when she was First Lady — so my critique may seem unfair given her previous experience.
But then again, look at that list — even if over about 7 years, that’s a very thick roster of travel to some of the world’s messy regions. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton see the value in getting on a plane and going to see something — but it’s clear that Clinton balances places that are war-torn or having problems with trips where America’s closest allies are.
Joe Biden’s travel is also interesting. He is also not high on Asia or South America. But he does do hot spots.
Joe Biden — International Travel
May – June
August – September
Joe Biden’s “identity” is very much American — to play off the Zakaria comment, “I know what it means not to be an American” — but I think that the experiences he has had globally inform him and his sense of what works and doesn’t in the world. To suggest that identity and “solving problems by the gut” is the way we should select our next President seems really wrong-headed.
Governor Mitt Romney’s travel, in contrast to the others, is very high on Asia, moderate on Europe — includes Iraq and Guantanamo, but also gives no attention to Latin America and includes no trips to Africa.
This is what Mitt Romney’s team shared with me:
Mitt Romney — International Travel
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Despite my surprise about some of the voids in the various candidate’s travel profiles, all are travelers. All have passports — and given the anti-international pugnaciousness that used to be the fad in Congress, this is a good sign overall.
I still don’t have all of the travel profiles I’d like to have — and will post them as they come in. . .and if they come in.
— Steve Clemons