Obama: Go to Mecca, not Berlin
The travel itineraries of the candidates for President have been interesting to analyze. A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Cindy McCain was going to travel to Rwanda as part of a group to discuss the effects of poverty and disease on the people in that country. Huh? Is there any need for this trip outside of the obvious political move to show that they care about Africa? If the McCain campaign is trying to make political points by showing you care about people of color, why not go to West Baltimore or Southeast D.C.? It would be interesting to see if that trip is ever on either John or Cindy McCain’s schedule.
Obama and his overseas trip plans are equally as baffling. I understand the political necessity of going to Iraq and Afghanistan to close the Commander in Chief credibility gap with John McCain. A good series of photo opportunities with the troops is a safe political move. Obama has to walk a fine line in supporting the efforts of our troops, restating his position that the War in Iraq is not the correct course for our country, and outline a realistic withdrawal policy that makes sense militarily while being sensitive to Iraqi internal political interests.
My issue with Obama’s trip is the visit to Berlin. First, the advance team made a monumental mistake of trying to drop their candidate into a situation that reminded Americans of two of the greatest presidents of the 20th century, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Of course, the difference is that they were the President and their speeches were directed at the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Who exactly is Obama trying to address with a speech in Berlin? The scrutiny he will receive over this speech will make or break this foreign trip; nothing else will matter, so he better nail it.
My suggestion to Obama: forget Berlin, go to Mecca. If you really want to be seen in a Kennedy / Reagan light in the diplomatic arena, you should use your popularity and your unique heritage to address the Christian and Muslim worlds. A thoughtful speech that focuses on our similarities, rather than our differences, is clearly needed between both communities of faith. Kennedy and Reagan in their speeches addressed the major foreign policy concerns of our country. Obama has the opportunity to do something similar if he takes up this challenge. However, the issue is much trickier and more dangerous than either Kennedy or Reagan had to face. Instead of disarming conventional and nuclear weapons, Obama has to disarm fear and prejudice on both sides, Christian and Muslim.
This is where the “Audacity of Hope” meets the reality of fear…let’s see if hope can transform the world once again.