Obama trip gaffeless, picture-perfect

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LONDON | David Axelrod could not have scripted a better week for his candidate.

Sen. Barack Obama was pressured by his Republican rival to visit two war zones, and he traveled to eight countries amid fears he would make some crippling foreign-policy gaffe.

Instead, European leaders fawned over the Democratic presidential candidate, who was greeted by excited fans everywhere and attracted record crowds in Berlin. He got an added boost from key Iraqi officials and even his opponent as they embraced a timetable for troop withdrawal.

There were few errors or dust-ups over the nine-day trip as Sen. John McCain and Republican operatives back home hammered Mr. Obama for seeming to take a “premature victory lap.”

“It is hard for me to understand Senator McCain’s argument. He was telling me I was supposed to take this trip,” Mr. Obama told reporters during a press conference Saturday in front of 10 Downing Street after a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Democrat said “we had it planned” before his rival made the trip suggestion, and noted that Mr. McCain, since wrapping up his party nomination in February, has visited “every one of these countries … that I have,” and also has given speeches in Canada, Colombia and Mexico.

“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,” he said.

The Arizona senator complained in his weekly radio address about all the press attention Mr. Obama received - a week of multiple network-anchor interviews that ends with his taped “Meet the Press” appearance Sunday.

“This week, the presidential contest was a long-distance affair, with my opponent touring various continents and arriving yesterday in Paris,” Mr. McCain said, rattling off the places where he campaigned in the meantime: Maine, upstate New York, New Hampshire, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado.

“With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to ‘the people of the world,’ I’m starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are, too,” he said.

While the McCain radio address criticized Mr. Obama for being in France, Mr. McCain suggested at the same time that the French could be a model of energy independence for the United States to emulate and implicitly slammed Mr. Obama for his unease with expanding U.S. use of nuclear power.

“I wonder if he noticed while he was in France that they draw 80 percent of their electricity from nuclear energy,” he said. “Nations from Europe to Asia are expanding their use of this clean, proven and stable source of energy.”

The Saturday morning press availability and meetings were Mr. Obama’s last duties before heading back across the Atlantic after a trip filled with flattering footage that Mr. Axelrod, a chief Obama adviser, would not rule out using in some campaign commercials before the Nov. 4 election.

The British tabloids and TV stations mocked his visit - and the hundreds of thousands who attended the Berlin speech Thursday evening - as suffering from “Obamania,” but that didn’t stop them from joining in.

“Can we get a wave?” photographers shouted at the senator from Illinois as they clicked their shutters hundreds of times for the perfect shot.

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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