Here’s Barack Obama a while back on the subject of state visits:
“When Sen. Clinton brags, ‘I’ve met leaders from eighty countries—I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then—you go.
“You do that in eighty countries–you don’t know those eighty countries,” he said. “So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa—knowing the leaders is not important—what I know is the people. . I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college—I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. .
Ah, but photo-ops are different. That’s where the real learning occurs:
But as every junior political operative knows, it’s all about the photos, which means that the real value of Mr. Obama’s trip was the visual reinforcement of too-good-to-be-true images he accumulated along the way. Many American voters read about his policy and political achievements in print. But a much larger audience saw footage of the Democratic nominee meeting with Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, and Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; taking a helicopter ride with Gen. David Petraeus; and sinking a three-point shot on a basketball court on a United States military installation in Kuwait.
As for what Obama learned on his trip: it confirmed his already-existing beliefs. What a surprise! John Dickerson writes:
But Obama still holds the same policy views he did more than a year and a half ago, even though a lot has changed since then in Iraq, and a lot of those events appear to contradict his earlier views. We know that Obama hasn’t moved, but we don’t know, really, why that’s so.
I submit that we do know why it’s so. Obama seems incapable of admitting he was wrong about something so basic. I’m not sure whether this incapacity includes the fact that he can’t admit it to himself, or if it’s just a calculation that it would be politically counterproductive to admit it to the public.
If the latter, I disagree. He looks more foolish denying it than he would admitting he was wrong. The latter would at least make him seem less overwhelmingly arrogant than he’s been appearing lately.