Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
US presidential candidates head abroad -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

US presidential candidates head abroad

The World Today - Wednesday, 2 July , 2008 12:45:00

Reporter: Kim Landers

ELEANOR HALL: In the United States, the two presidential candidates are about to embark on
international trips to bolster their foreign policy credentials.

Republican John McCain is heading to Colombia and Mexico to talk about free trade.

And Democrat Barack Obama is heading to the Middle East.

As Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: After a campaign swing through Pennsylvania and Indiana, two states hit hard by the
loss of manufacturing jobs, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain has set off on a three-day
trip to Colombia and Mexico to talk about free trade, which many unions blame for wiping out jobs
in America's industrial heartland.

Later this month, Democratic nominee Barack Obama will also head overseas visiting Israel, Jordan,
Britain, France and Germany and he's also likely to make stops in Iraq and Afghanistan too.

Aaron Miller is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars and
a former advisor to six secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations.

AARON MILLER: If in fact the trips are well orchestrated and well planned and avoid whatever mind
fields and serendipity there are, they can be used to demonstrate gravitas, seriousness of purpose,
foreign policy credentials.

KIM LANDERS: For Barack Obama that means making only his second trip to Iraq.

AARON MILLER: I think Obama has to go.

Clearly the key foreign policy challenge for his administration, should he become the president,
will be how to extricate American forces and the American presence out of Iraq in a way that makes
sense for American and Iraqi interests.

KIM LANDERS: Do you think Barack Obama may face a situation where he's going to have to change his
plan for withdrawing American troops from Iraq?

I mean at the moment he talks about withdrawing one combat brigade per month. Do you think that he
may be faced with a situation where he can't live up to that promise?

AARON MILLER: I do. And McCain will be faced with a similar situation. He will not be able to live
up to the promise of creating victory. Obama is pushing quick and expeditious withdrawal according
to an orderly timetable and McCain is pushing the victory.

It seems to me neither of these courses of action suit the reality on the ground or presumably the
circumstances in which they will find themselves. A middle course is going to have to be sought,
and both, it seems to me, will have to course correct.

KIM LANDERS: Dr Michael Fullilove is a foreign policy analyst from the Lowy Institute in Sydney
who's based this year at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

He says the presidential candidates are taking overseas trips for different reasons. John McCain to
try to show his strengths and Barack Obama to cover his weaknesses.

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: My own expectation is that Obama is likely to win the battle of the trips. And
the reason I say that is this, I think for McCain the expectations are higher. When he makes a
mistake as he did in the Middle East in March, when he confused Sunnis and Shiites for example,
people mark him down because he is the national security candidate and they don't expect him to
make those kind of mistakes.

I think Obama is coming from a lower base when it comes to international issues. He didn't serve in
the US military; he wasn't a war hero; he hasn't had a quarter of a century in Congress.

So for him I think there's more to gain, because images of Obama outside 10 Downing Street or the
Elysee Palace change people's perceptions of him in a way that they can't, I think, for McCain.

It gets more Americans comfortable with the idea of a president Obama.

KIM LANDERS: How important do you think foreign policy is going to be in this election, given that
many Americans, at the moment at least, seem preoccupied with skyrocketing petrol prices, higher
food prices?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: The elapsing of time since 9/11, the fact that the surge has had some successes
in Iraq has reduced the salience of national security as an issue and therefore it's more of a
normal peace time election if you like.

I think which is what opened the opportunity for someone like Obama to come through the middle. But
having said that, I think national security and foreign policy is still a box that every successful
candidate has to tick.

KIM LANDERS: For these two White House hopefuls, their foreign policy resumes will have at least
been topped up by the end of all the travel.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.