Bush Is On The Ballot

It is not normal that candidates running for the presidency bring their campaign overseas. Yet, this is what John McCain did when he became the presumptive nominee of the Republican party. And now Barack Obama will be doing a campaign style tour of countries in Europe and the Middle-East, and will be visiting Afghanistan. It is clear that the foreign press is enamored with the candidacy of Obama and it is to be expected that crowds will show up in a display quite similar to the arrival of a rock star. The major networks in the United States will surely be covering the trip in more elaborate detail than the one by McCain.

It is a risky decision when politicians decide to speak to a foreign audience. After all, with the exception of Americans abroad, the next president will be chosen by the American people and ultimately, the Electoral College. The potential for mistakes is much greater and the repercussions on the domestic campaign much more significant. McCain did not need to make the trip, because he is a known commodity and has extensive foreign relations experience. Still, he felt the need to go overseas. Obama, on the other hand, lacks the experience and is an unknown commodity; his decision to go abroad has a lot to do with shoring up a perceived weakness in his candidacy at home. Whatever the reason, and despite the risks, the candidates obviously felt that exporting their campaign was absolutely necessary.

The more compelling reason that these candidates have gone out of their way to bring their message abroad is that the presidency of George W. Bush has left its mark in world politics. And it is not good.  American prestige is at a low and the Bush administration is certainly the least-admired and least-respected one in recent memory. It should not have been that way, because American strength has more to do with moral legitimacy and ideals than military strength and being the strongest economic power in the world. After 9-11, the world—with the exception of the terrorists—was ready to rally behind the American president. However, the President chose the neo-conservative agenda, preferred ideology over diplomacy, and made decisions that halted the momentum behind U.S. initiatives following the attacks of 9-11. Whether we like it or not, McCain is running against Bush as much as he is against Obama, and Obama is clearly running against Bush as much as he is against McCain. So, the real reason for these overseas trips has more to do with the fact that, though it may not show, Bush is on the ballot.