Barack Obama is on his way to Europe, where an adoring public awaits. But I wonder if the reception would be quite so enthusiastic if Obama's fans across the Atlantic knew a dirty little secret of his remarkable presidential campaign: Although Obama portrays himself as the best candidate to engage the rest of the world and restore America's image abroad, and many Americans support him for that reason, so far he has almost completely refused to answer questions from foreign journalists. When the press plane leaves tonight for his trip, there will be, as far as I know, no foreign media aboard. The Obama campaign has refused multiple requests from international reporters to travel with the candidate.
As a German correspondent in Washington, I am accustomed to the fact that American politicians spare little of their limited time for reporters from abroad. This is understandable: Our readers, viewers and listeners cannot vote in U.S. elections. Even so, Obama's opponents have managed to make at least a small amount of time for international journalists. John McCain has given many interviews. Hillary Clinton gave a few. President Bush regularly holds round-table interviews with media from the countries to which he travels. Only Obama dismisses us so consistently.
Sounds pretty whiny, actually--almost like the reporter in question is about to burst into tears because he's not having his ass kissed.
The Germans are carrying water for the Republican Party--why would Obama bother to talk to German media? He has anonymous German politicians helping perpetrate the smears that the American Republican Party would love to spread through any means possible:
His appearance at the "Victory Column" in Berlin's central Tiergarten park is expected to draw huge crowds and is being likened in advance to former president John F. Kennedy's celebrated "Ich bin ein Berliner" performance of 1963.
But in the German Chancellery a few hundred meters away there is unease with the Illinois senator's cult-like following and skepticism about whether he can live up to the hype.
"There is a sort of Obama-mania in Germany right now, but I think a lot of people will have their illusions shattered if he does become president," an official in Chancellor Angela Merkel's office told Reuters, requesting anonymity.
You know, that first summit between Merkel and Obama is likely to be interesting.
What no one points out is that, when McCain talks to the foreign media, he has to have Joe Lieberman close at hand to help him tell the players apart. When Obama talks to the media, he is focused on the US media because he's not the President--he's running for the job and he's trying to bolster his foreign policy credentials. All of the favorable stories in the overseas media would just be used against him anyway, so what does he do? He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't, and he's never going to get the favorable treatment that McCain enjoys.