Yeah, I said it.
I’ve seen other comments here and there about President Obama’s recent European trip, saying that he’s just out having fun, spending money, blahbittyblahblah. Cut the bullshit, people. He’s the President of the United States of America. He does diplomacy and junk, okay? Let’s look at his 6-day schedule, shall we?
Monday: A meeting with the Irish president and prime minister. A visit to the village where his great-great-great grandfather lived. A pint of Guinness. A speech in Dublin about Irish-American ties.
Tuesday: Off to London for lunch with Queen Elizabeth. Laying a wreath at Westminster Abbey at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, an important part of every state visit to the U.K. Attending a state dinner hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace.
Wednesday: A meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, followed by a news conference with the PM. A speech to Parliament. Hosting a dinner for the queen at the home of the U.S. Ambassador to Britain.
Thursday: Off to Deauville, France, for a G8 meeting. A major topic included how this group of the world’s top economies can assist countries in the Middle East and Africa that are experiencing the birthing pains of democracy. A meeting with Russian President Medvedev.
Friday: More G8 meetings. A meeting with French President Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Kan, then travel to Warsaw. Dinner with several leaders of Central and Eastern European countries.
Saturday: A meeting with Polish President Komorowski, lunch with Prime Minister Tusk, followed by a news conference with the PM. Visits to several cultural sites, including the laying of a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto, where so many freedom fighters fought and died during WWII.
So, Pawlenty...what did YOU do this past week?
Has President Obama traveled overseas more than any other recent President? Yes, slightly more than Bush the Elder. Not an outrageous amount. If you recall, he also had plenty of ground to make up, considering that Bush the Younger left our overseas relations in a shambles. (We really weren’t very well-liked for some time. Remember that?) This is part of what the President does. He meets with foreign heads of state, both abroad and at home, and fosters good will while discussing policy. Many scoffed at his quaffing of a pint in Dublin, but he was very well-received in Ireland and generated a lot of good will.
Many also seem to take issue at the state dinners that take place at the White House. I get the impression that people think that when President Hu and his wife pop in from China, they should all just get together for fried baloney sandwiches and Pringles. That would save the taxpayers some money, right?!
I remember having a “discussion” with my Dad, who thought it was ridiculous that President Obama took Air Force One everywhere. I said, “Dad...he’s the President. He can’t just fly coach. There are security concerns.” He did seem to concede the point, but I have noticed much more outrage over President Obama’s travels than I noticed in any other Presidency. I don’t recall anyone complaining about George H. W. Bush’s Japan trip in 1994...except maybe for the Japanese Prime Minister who got puked on. (You’ll all be glad to know that I censored myself and did not include a link to the video. I DO respect the Presidency, and President Bush was very ill. I really don’t laugh at that.)
But really, folks. Get a grip and stop criticizing the President for doing part of his job: diplomacy. You can criticize him for his policies, but his overseas trips are vital to our relationships around the world, both those that have been solid for years (the British) and those that are newer and perhaps somewhat shaky (the Chinese). This is just nitpicking bullshit, and Pawlenty’s snarkiness showed him to be puerile, petty, and pandering to the teabaggers who automatically hate anything Obama does. Definitely less than presidential.