Obama Amends the Europe Travel Story


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Recently, I wrote about my own surprise that Barack Obama had not called together a policy or issue-oriented hearing in his role as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee/Subcommittee on Europe.
I followed this up with a piece that explored what various presidential candidates were reporting on their travel. Obama’s campaign staff gave me a roster of travel that did not include any mention of Europe (other than the Ukraine).
His campaign sent a friendly note after my early essays amending the notes they sent me — stating that he had been to London during a Moscow-focused trip in a delegation led by then Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar. I had already noted this because other press reports had discovered the London stop over and meeting with Blair.
But what was interesting is that I had reported what the press was saying that Obama had stopped in London “on the way back from Moscow.” But the campaign staff told me that he stopped in London on the way to Moscow and Eastern Europe — so I noted the discrepancy.
Now, Obama makes clear that he visited London on the way back from Moscow — but also shared in an interview with the Iowa Independent this direct comment: “I’ve travelled through Europe extensively.”
I had no idea that this issue would attract so much attention — but it fell into a groove that the Obama campaign had apparently launched — which was to emphasize “identity” over “experience.”
As I’ve written before, I have applauded and criticized Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but trying to disparage experience as a campaign strategy left me disappointed.
I would just like to see the record set straight now.
Where did Barack Obama go in Europe and when?
And why has the hard-working campaign staff, many of whom are friends, been left to fight in the dark on this issue?
Why hasn’t Obama given the campaign staff all that they need to respond to these experience and travel questions?
Let’s just get the whole story straight now — so that we can move on to other real debates about experience, policy proposals, and vision.
— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Obama Amends the Europe Travel Story

  1. Zee says:

    As a constituent and supporter of Delahunt I was disgusted from the get go of his way premature endorsement of Obama. Obama’s repulsive invocation of Reagan as some monumental agent of change doesn’t surprise me. I only regret I did not berate Delahunt in time to precede this odious tactic of Obamappeaser. Anyone who followed Barrack’s endorsement of his “good friend” Lieberman over Lamont after the CT Dems kicked Joe’s no-good rethug-independent butt to the curb knows that Obama is no Democrat. Maybe Delahunt gets that now. He may be surprised to learn that his constituents are not “Reagan democrats” either. I hope this comes back to bite him where the sun don’t shine.


  2. Davidson says:

    Seth wrote:”…her evasiveness during her White House years…”
    Not one VP who ran for president ever released their papers. Does that mean that they too were evasive? Check out factcheck.org for more on the issue. They explain that Bill Clinton was right in that it was out of his hands anyway.
    More to a general point: I don’t understand why it’s all about Obama v. Clinton as if no other candidates exist (Edwards anyone?). I will not vote for the latter (unless she’s the nominee), but Obama is not a good candidate–at all. Attacking Clinton does not validate his candidacy. And the fact that people are so dismissive of his refusal to show any leadership–at all–in the senate is upsetting. This wasn’t some throwaway position; NATO is front and center in our foreign policy. However, even if you want to dismiss that, where’s his leadership on any substantial issue, especially Iraq? What about the Mckasey nomination? How is voting for a torture advocate wise judgment? Even Clinton didn’t vote for him. How is boasting that you’ll violate the national sovereignty of Pakistan if Musharraf doesn’t target terrorists and vowing to deploy troops to that nuclear powder keg of a country wise judgment? Obama made these inflammatory comments just this August when it was obvious that Pakistan was spinning out of control (“The We Need to Win”).
    If Clinton is as bad as Obama supporters say she is then the fact their voting records and policies on Iraq are the same should show that he doesn’t have the “judgment” he claims to have (And no having a grandmother who lives in a hut in Kenya doesn’t make you an expert on international relations).
    I can only hope Edwards pulls this out and appoints Biden to his cabinet.


  3. teresa says:

    You are confused. Clinton is not running on Bills white house experience. She is running on her own White House experience. No matter how hard you try to twist this in to some sort of convenient pretzel logic, her experience is real.


  4. JohnH says:

    Hillary’s fundamental problem is her creative relationship with the truth. In fact, her campaign is based on it. She claims to be experienced, but this is simply not true. Her glory is mostly reflected (Hillary’s moon to Bill’s sun.) She has no real accomplishments and has shown no leadership on any tough issues since her healthcare fiasco 15 years ago.
    The only way that she can legitimately claim superior experience is by suggesting that Bill will be a co-president. But she denies this, claiming to run on her own merits.
    So which is it? Does she have experience because Bill will be her co-pilot? Or is she independent, which means that she is not particularly experienced?
    We have just spent 7 years reeling from a President who had an extremely creative relationship with reality. Can we endure another 9 with Hillary?


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Where did Barack Obama go in Europe and when?”
    And I would ask “who the hell cares?”
    I would much rather hear Obama clarify his comments about the standard for impeachment, and tell us if Bush isn’t impeachable for his criminal conduct, then just what the hell does constitute “grave and intentional breeches of the President’s authority”?
    And, if Obama doesn’t think Bush has committed such “breeches”, than to what standard can we expect Obama to hold himself?
    Further, your post has exposed the fact that Obama’s campaign staff reads this blog, so why don’t THEY answer the questions I posed above, or, better yet, get Obama to answer them??
    I won’t hold my breath. Nor will I vote for him. I happen to believe the law isn’t just for us lowly peons out here in the real world. The democracy I once thought we had held our President, and our representatives, to the letter of the law as well. Has Obama just forgotten his oath of office, or does he just choose to ignore it?


  6. Steve Clemons says:

    Seth — I completely agree with you on the fact that there is more that Hillary might be transparent about as well. To tell you the truth, I just never thought that this little string I found would lead to such a long, and pullable string with Obama. I haven’t found such a string with Hillary — that started off in a minor way and then became somewhat larger. My critiques of Hillary have been more on the subject of foreign policy incrementalism — in some senses far more important than some of the travel/experience material that I helped surface on Obama.
    This really is a case where I stumbled across something unintended — and then just kept at it a bit and because this blog helped surface the material, I’ve had a hand in digging more deeply into the subject. But I don’t think that this is an enormously important matter — but it is a topic I had a unique hand in.
    Many thanks,
    Steve Clemons


  7. Seth says:

    thanks for the response. I ought to walk my own talk and be clear that I decisively favor Obama – in the primary, at any rate. That said, I suppose I point to your citation of the ARG poll as an instance of a broader trend, which, yes, takes a variety of people to task, but seems to treat Obama a bit more harshly.
    Obama might be reticent or even misleading in disclosing his European travels, but can there be any doubt that this is a fairly rare occurance? Candor and honesty are not problems for Obama. There are other quite legitimate concerns about his candidacy, but this is not one of them [which might be your rationale for giving them such focus?].
    If candor is a concern, Clinton is obviously the candidate with a lot of explaining to do – even leaving aside her evasiveness during her White House years, she dependably hedges her bets and alters her rationale for her Senate votes [she’s my Senator: I’ve been paying attention!]. That said, one can have a creative relationship with the truth (as she does) and still do a bang-up job (as she does in the Senate).
    Taking Obama to task on the question of candor in foreign travel seems misplaced, since Clinton’s lack of candor is often tied to issues of far greater consequence.


  8. JohnH says:

    Hillary’s foreign policy experience RIP:
    Steve, besides asking Obama hard questions, you need to start asking Hillary hard questions. The fundamental question is: Has she ever accomplished anything? Was her influence on any important issue ever decisive?
    All I can see is a lot of smoke and little substance.


  9. publisher@besspress.com says:

    Steve, you and your blog have really jumped the shark on this topic. The whole discussion has now become a bit comic, don’t you think?


  10. Steve Clemons says:

    Seth — I think you misread my interest in polls. I am not a polling expert but I do reference them when I see something interesting. I put up the ARG poll because it reported trends that seemed to be at odds with other polls I had recently seen. It seemed material. I then saw Chris Brown’s good reference to something explaining the differences. I’m not a partisan for either Obama or Clinton. In fact, most readers of this blog know that I’ve challenged Clinton on Israel/Palestine, Cuba, Iran/IRGC, etc rather harshly. Some were convinced I was a shill for Obama — which is not true.
    I like Hagel’s approach to foreign policy — and when any of these candidates adopts his general template, I may tilt more subjectively than I do today towards that candidate.
    But in any case, I appreciate your views — but my inexperience with polls does not mean that I use them one way or another to push a political agenda. I try to be fair-minded, even to the point of asking a self-declared Obama partisan Michael Schiffer to add his perspective from Iowa — particularly after my critiques of Obama as of late.
    best regards — and happy holidays for the new year,
    steve clemons


  11. Seth says:

    Count me as a fan of your blog, so don’t take this the wrong way, but bloggerly faux-neutrality in political coverage is a big pet peeve. You rarely cite polls, so the fact that you highlighted the ARG poll showing a big Clinton lead says quite a bit about where you stand — this was a notorious “Christmas poll” and ARG has some trend problems independent of that (Charles Franklin gave it a good run-down the other day, please take a look).
    If you don’t make your support for Clinton clear while writing favorably about her, and negatively about Obama, it has the net effect of compromising your credibility as an independent observer of politics. You do a good job of being transparent and balanced in your discussions of foreign policy matters, stating your opinion when you have one, and I suspect that bringing that level of disclosure to political posts is something that maybe you’re just a little less comfortable with.
    In other words: go ahead and endorse her and get it off your chest!
    I do admire your work, so it would be nice to see you be a bit more forthcoming on this matter. Keep up the good work.


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