Thursday, July 3, 2008

Obama's world tour

So far as the US election is like a game, you might say the planet is about to become the stadium. This promises to be the first US presidential election in which important campaign battles will be fought on foreign soil.

Today's "July Surprise" may well have been a desperate bid by the McCain campaign to upstage Obama in the global arena. It was likely no coincidence that the rescue of 11 Colombians and three American hostages in Columbia happened within minutes of John McCain's departure. Reuters reports that "The rescue was a huge coup for popular President Alvaro Uribe, an anti-guerrilla hard-liner who has used billions of dollars in U.S. aid to push the rebels onto the defensive, cut crime and spur economic growth." We know Bush is close to Uribe. Fox News anchor Sean Hannity is already saying "McCain saves hostages."

Supposing the rescue had been so contrived, it was truly an act of desperation by the Republicans. Why? Because in a few short weeks Obama is going to head off on a world tour of his own. Polls say that the world is very interested in Obama. For example, a Canadian survey showed that Obama enjoys a higher popularity rating than the country's own prime minister (It's been quite some time -- almost 50 years -- since Canadians last fell in love with an American politician). Across Europe, Obama is preferred overwhelmingly to McCain. A Telegraph poll shows him to be three times more popular than McCain among the British.

The story is that Obama's world tour is intended to build up Obama's reputation as having foreign policy credentials. Well, that's not the half of it.

Imagine tens of thousands of people flooding the streets of world capitals to catch a glimpse of Obama. A political campaign simply can't buy that kind of television imagery. Obama's upcoming seven nation world tour promises to be nothing short of spectacular. The McCain campaign knows it, and they know there is very little they can do to counter it. It is some consolation that their supporters in the media will at least be able to grumble: when Obama travels crowds may gather, but when McCain goes abroad, our hostages come home. It's lame. But what other choice do they have?

This US election will be as global as the Internet. McCain won the first match in Columbia, but he will surely lose the World Cup.

photo: John F. Kennedy on a visit to Europe, historyplace.

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