- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2000

The limited travel experience of George W. Bush is creating controversy in political circles and the media particularly the British press, where the president-elect is being mocked for his supposed unworldliness.

The Texas governor's travel abroad includes several trips to Mexico, a trip with other governors to the Middle East, a delegation visit to Gambia, and a month in China in 1975 when his father was envoy to Beijing.

But the president-elect has been to Europe only once, when he visited his daughter in Italy in 1998.

This prompted the left-leaning Independent to run a map of the world "according to George W. Bush" on Dec. 15, showing Europe misspelled, Britain as "Another Island," Spain identified as "Kinda Mexico," and Iceland confused with Ireland.

The cover of the Mirror in London exclaimed: "Congrats on becoming the president, Dubya." Beneath the headline was a picture of planet Earth, an arrow pointing to Britain declaring "P.S. We are here."

But travel experience is not necessarily a factor in developing an effective foreign policy, say political veterans and presidential scholars.

"We are living in an information age, where you do not have to be in London to know what is going on in London," said Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan and a campaign adviser to Mr. Bush.

During the election, Mr. Bush's campaign distributed a list of 150 foreign diplomats and trade officials Mr. Bush met with as governor to deflect criticism of his limited travels.

"It seems kind of a silly standard, how much he has traveled," Mr. Perle said. "I think President Bush is smart, I think he has a lot of common sense, he is tough-minded, and I expect he will be quite distinguished on his foreign policy," Mr. Perle said.

"What really counts is the quality of the ideas that stand behind the policy," said Baker Spring, national security policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Gilbert A. Robinson, national director of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, said developing a strong foreign policy is not contingent on prior travel, but on ideals and team support.

"His foreign policy will depend on the strength of his foreign policy team, which he has demonstrated is going to be quite strong with Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and others being put in place," Mr. Robinson said.

The expertise and background of Miss Rice, nominated as national security adviser, and retired Gen. Colin Powell, nominated as secretary of state, are said to be a good foundation for establishing an effective foreign policy.

Mr. Powell served as national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in previous administrations and was encouraged to run for president in the past.

Miss Rice served as an adviser to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff on strategic nuclear policy in 1987, and was a special assistant to President Bush for national security affairs. Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney, a former defense secretary, is also part of the national security team.

The challenge in establishing an effective foreign policy is making sure the president's visions and underlying positions are entrenched in the administration, Mr. Spring said.

President Clinton's travel abroad before his election was also scrutinized by the media not where he traveled, but what he did during his travels.

While on a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University, Mr. Clinton helped organize antiwar, anti-U.S. protests and visited the Soviet Union during the height of the Vietnam War.

According to then-White House spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers, Mr. Clinton toured Europe during a vacation from Oxford. She said he rode alone by train from Helsinki, Finland, and went through Leningrad before arriving in Moscow on New Year's Eve 1969.

In a June 12, 1989, article in the Arkansas Gazette, Mr. Clinton first acknowledged he had visited the Soviet Union "in the early '70s" and described the period as a time of "good relations between our two countries."

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham made several speeches the House floor asking Mr. Clinton to explain his trips and antiwar activity.

"Early on I was very critical of Clinton and his travel to foreign countries that were against what our country was fighting for," Mr. Cunningham, California Republican, acknowledged.

"It's not where you travel or how much you travel, but what you do with the knowledge you acquire. Mr. Bush is not going to approach these same counties with a left-wing perspective," Mr. Cunningham said.

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