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Posted by on Jul 14, 2008 in Politics | 4 comments

John McCain Must Go to Antarctica

Important research work is being done year around in Antarctica involving climate change studies, atmospheric research, oceanographic science and the life cycle of penguins. These are all important topics to Americans during this election, and I fail to see how John McCain can be taken seriously as a candidate unless he agrees to go spend a month at McMurdo Station to meet and talk with the workers and directors of these projects.

Sound rather silly? I suppose so, but I couldn’t keep that image from my mind when I read about Senator McCain’s call for Barack Obama to go to South America. The McCain team already goaded Obama about not visiting Europe and the Middle East often enough to amass frequent flyer miles, and the Obama team – in their usual, “counter-punch a moment too late” style – fell for it hook, line and sinker. And now, before the the bags are even packed for Baghdad, the Illinois Senator is being hectored into a trip below the equator. I can only imagine the frantic scrambling in the Obama camp.

Ack! McCain went to South America! Quick… find something important happening in Brazil!

Oh no! McCain thinks we should go to the Australian Outback. Quick! Does anyone speak Bushman???

Hold it! McCain is giving a speech on NASA! Bump somebody off the next space shuttle launch. We need to get Barack on the moon!

It’s well past time that we identify these junkets by the candidates for exactly what they are: photo ops that provide little if any value beyond the political capital they generate or expend. Does anyone seriously think that a President or candidate is really gaining any perspective on these trips? Witness the President, Vice President and Secretary of State travelling to the war zone. The trips are conducted in the dark of night under a complete media blackout, swooping in and being whisked to the Green Zone to meet with military leaders and officials behind walls of security. Even John McCain’s famous “walk through the market” was later revealed to have been taken with ground forces deployed ahead and behind while Blackhawks circled overhead.

Who are they meeting? Regular citizens on the streets? Are they getting unbiased interviews with the average GI Joe on the ground? Trust me, I wouldn’t want to be the one showing up for inspection the next morning after giving an earful to a seated Senator or the Commander in Chief. Even when politicians visit relatively peaceful countries they are taking part in carefully staged dog and pony shows with the only meetings of any consequence being held in controlled environs with national leaders. All of this could just as readily be accomplished by inviting foreign leaders or summoning generals to Washington. Even better, in our modern era, would be to hold more video teleconferences. I have customers and colleagues in Europe and Asia whom I’ve never met, and yet we have maintained a successful business relationship for a decade or more.

This oneupsmanship is a fine parlor game for the media and might do something to sway a voter here and there, but does it deliver any value? It’s much like when the President or a Governor goes to “tour a disaster area” following a flood, hurricane, earthquake or wildfire. Do they really think that their eagle eyes will spot something from the helicopter that won’t be seen by the applicable disaster management officials on the ground or the lens of the media? No, they will not. Generally they will just tie up traffic and slow relief efforts with their armies of security surrounding them. It’s all for the media and intended solely to push up an approval rating by a point or two.

Enough! Both of these candidates have campaigns to run here at home, talking to voters and giving us the information we need to make up our minds this fall. Not to mention the fact that they are both still Senators and might want to stop by The Hill on occasion to do some, you know… actual work. Or perhaps they’ve not noticed their current 9% approval rating?