LONDON -- Standing in front of No. 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Saturday his overseas campaign swing showed "people at home, but also leaders abroad, some sense of where an Obama administration might take our foreign policy."
If this sneak preview of an Obama White House might strike some as premature -- as it certainly does the rival McCain camp -- the strategy of the whirlwind visits was to tell the story, illustrated by dramatic photo ops in the Middle East and Europe, that there is a place waiting for Obama on the world stage.
Senior strategist Robert Gibbs -- who this time four years ago was busy with Obama's bid for a Senate seat from Illinois -- said the biggest achievement was to show "the American people that Barack Obama can operate at the highest levels on the international scene. And we hope that voters got a chance to see him in action and get a chance to look at the judgment that he has." Obama, 47 on Aug. 4, has argued since he got in the presidential race that judgment trumps any resume gap voters may be worried about.
After immersion coverage of international affairs -- with big media outlet "exclusive" interviews scheduled almost every day since he left Chicago on July 17 -- the Obama campaign on Monday shifts to "talking and focusing on the economic situation," Gibbs said. Ahead soon is what Gibbs called "the last remaining wild card" -- Obama's selection of a vice presidential running mate.
Obama took questions from British and U.S. reporters on the sidewalk in front of 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister.
Asked about McCain's charge of a premature victory lap, Obama noted that before he left, McCain had been hammering him for only visiting Iraq once (in 2006) and Afghanistan never, and that the trip -- at least to some of the countries -- has been in the works for some time. From Chicago -- and flying under a cloak of secrecy for security reasons, Obama headed to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. From the warzones traveling on military aircraft, Obama flew in his campaign planes to Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian West Bank town of Ramallah, Germany, France and England. It was a 10-day, 8-country trip.
"John McCain has visited every one of these countries post primary that I have. He has given speeches in Canada, in Colombia, Mexico, he made visits. And so it doesn't strike me that we have done anything different than the McCain campaign has done, which is to recognize that part of the job of the next president, commander in chief, is to forge effective relationships with our allies."
Obama successfully navigated through a series of meetings that went off without controversy, avoiding political landmines in the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An issue that the McCain forces are stroking is Obama's cancellation of a visit to a military hospital in Germany. Though the Pentagon approved the visit, the campaign yanked it off the schedule after the Pentagon signaled worry about it looking political.
On relations with allies, Obama's most public warm reception came from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a student of Obama's style who welcomed him to the presidential palace on Thursday. Jordan's King Abdullah personally drove Obama to the airport in Amman on Tuesday in order to spend more time with him. Some 200,OOO Germans filled a Berlin park to satisfy their curiosity about the charismatic American.
Obama was blessed with good timing; just before he left Iraq leaders said they were supportive of Obama's 16-month timeframe to pull out combat troops. And the Bush administration shifted toward the center on Iran, sending an envoy to join with other diplomats to discuss Iran's nuclear capability.
During a meeting with Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, Obama said that he might take a week off in August. He and Cameron chatted about judgment.
"And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions,'' Cameron said to Obama.
"That's exactly right," Obama said. "And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people I think. Who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topic and so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything, then you end up being a dilettante. But you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."