Election 2008

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Ssg. Lorie Jewell, HO/AP
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks with the top U.S. military commander in
Iraq, David Petraeus, at Baghdad International Airport, Iraq.

Presidential Candidates’ Foreign Travel Unprecedented

July 22, 2008 08:57 AM
by Liz Colville
The presidential candidates’ summer travels abroad have signaled a historical shift from the “three I’s”—Italy, Ireland and Israel—to countries at the forefront of both candidates’ agendas.

30-Second Summary

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Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is in the midst of a foreign tour that will include Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, and Republican candidate John McCain recently concluded a trip to Colombia and Mexico.

Historically speaking, there is little precedent for presidential candidates’ travel abroad, especially this early in the campaign. Visits to Italy, Ireland and Israel, which together make up a vast amount of Americans’ heritage, have frequently been on presidents’ travel itineraries, Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution told NPR.

McCain’s trip to Latin America and Obama’s trip to the Middle East signal the candidates’ “very different” economic and foreign policies, Hess adds.

For Obama, the trip is also an opportunity to broker relations with foreign leaders and assert his positions on issues like the war in Iraq. It is well-timed to more flexible statements on U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq by both the White House and the Prime Minister of Iraq.

Obama’s lack of experience on the world stage has drawn criticism from both his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and from Senator McCain, but he has regularly spoken of the importance of restoring the United States’ image abroad.

Former President Jimmy Carter made similar trips in the lead-up to his presidential run in an attempt to counter doubts of his political inexperience.

Headline Link: ‘News in hot spots appears to aid Obama’

Background: Another presidential hopeful abroad

Opinions & Analysis: Bolstering Foreign Policy Skills Abroad

Related Topic: Obama’s Berlin plans changed

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