Dunsmore: Coverage of Obama’s trip

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(HOST) There’s been no shortage of comment on President Barack Obama’s first overseas trip. This morning, commentator Barrie Dunsmore, veteran ABC News foreign and diplomatic correspondent, offers his critique of the critics.

(DUNSMORE) The initial news coverage of President and Mrs. Obama’s European tour was almost embarrassingly gushing – by both American and foreign news media.  After eight long years of an American President who did not care what the world thought, the media were probably reacting to a new American President and his wife who were so refreshingly different.  But reporters are not supposed to be cheerleaders. And quite properly they began to point out that for all of the good will the Obamas were generating, there were still genuine differences over important issues that won’t be resolved with an articulate speech, a warm smile and a firm handshake. As the Washington Post noted, "Despite his celebrity reception at nearly every stop on the six country tour, Obama was unable to persuade European allies to increase fiscal stimulus spending or to send additional combat troops to Afghanistan for long-term deployments."

But it should also be noted the Group of 20 nations did commit a trillion dollars for the International Monetary Fund to help protect the poorest nations from the global economic crisis. There was also agreement on new rules and regulations for future international financial dealings.  And at NATO, Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy got the blessings of all the key members. I thought John Harwood of the New York Times and NBC had it right when he said Obama did not get everything he wanted – but he got what he needed.  

The days are long gone when an American President could waltz into an important international meeting and essentially dictate the outcome. But there are those Obama critics – mostly among neo-conservatives and other right wingers in the Republican Party – who would have us believe that any meeting attended by an American President in which he did not get everything he wanted was a total failure.

A typical example of such thinking was this comment about Obama’s speech in Ankara, Turkey, which was meant to serve as an out-reach to the Islamic world: "By bending over to show greater respect to Islam," wrote the ultra-conservative Washington Times, "The U.S. President belittled the power and independence of the United States."

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House Speaker is among those who ridiculed Mr. Obama’s policy of listening to your friends and talking to your enemies.  After Obama spoke in Prague of trying to control the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually to eliminate them, Gingrich derided what he called the President’s "fantasy foreign policy."

Actually, the only American President who seriously considered abolishing all nuclear weapons was Ronald Reagan. At the time conservatives were horrified – though they failed in their efforts to undermine Reagan’s determination to negotiate a modest nuclear arms agreement with the Russians.

In my view, the foreign policy advocated by these critics – one based solely on unilateral, unbridled American military power – is the true fantasy. And, if nothing else, Obama’s trip has brought America back into the real world.

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