Diary

Reaching Out? Not So Much.

If you are going to run an American Presidential campaign that pledges, amongst other things, to improve America’s standing in the world, it behooves you to communicate from time to time with people from other countries. The best and most efficient way to do this, of course, is to communicate with the foreign media.

And yet, we find out that Barack Obama just isn’t interested:

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.

Of course, as the article makes sure to point out, Europeans don’t vote. But serious Presidential candidates don’t just run their races. They also prepare themselves for the possibility that they may win the Presidency and they do what they can in order to get a running start on fulfilling their responsibilities if elected. I have to think that this is the reason why people like Hillary Clinton and John McCain made it a practice to meet with the foreign media. They could and can count votes as well as anyone, but they also know that there is a whole lot more to running for President than merely counting votes. At some point, one must prepare oneself for the job and part of the job means communicating with the rest of the world.

I am utterly perplexed as to what might scare the Obama campaign about communicating more with the foreign media. Maybe someone should take the opportunity to ask what members of the campaign and the candidate himself are so worried about.