Obama begins 5-nation tour next week

In an effort to quell the foreign policy experience critics who’ve been hammering his campaign for months, Barack Obama has planned a 5-nation tour with visits to the Middle East and Europe. Of course, there will be a close eye on his visit to Iraq on which his position has seemed to waver in the past few weeks concerning the effectiveness of the surge and when troops should be withdrawn.

Story from USAToday:

WASHINGTON — For Barack Obama, the road to the White House is about to take a 12,000-mile detour.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will try to boost his résumé next week with a five-country European and Middle East tour that threatens to turn into Obamapalooza.

In contrast to the low-key coverage of Republican John McCain’s European and Middle East trip in March, Obama will be accompanied by a campaign plane of reporters and trailed by three network broadcast anchors. McCain got some headlines, but did not have a traveling press corps.

Obama is “going to be a rock star,” said James Thurber, an American University political scientist who recently taught a course in Brussels. “Expectations are high,” agreed Christian Hacke, a retired professor of foreign policy at the University of Bonn. “I think too high.”

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child but lacks the foreign policy experience of McCain, a Navy veteran and the top-ranking GOP member of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

Another report from USAToday on the major broadcast networks sending their anchors for exclusive interviews with Obama during the trip:

The three traditional TV networks will be sending their evening news anchors overseas to interview Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama when the senator takes his much-anticipated trip through the Middle East, central Asia and Europe later this month, The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz is reporting.

“That means the NBC, ABC and CBS newscasts will originate from stops on the trip and undoubtedly play it up,” Kurtz says. Obama’s stops are expected to include Afghanistan and Iraq, though his schedule has not been made public.

The senator has been to Iraq once, in 2006, and has not visited Afghanistan.

The networks’ decisions stand in contrast to the treatment they gave Republican hopeful John McCain’s trip last week to Colombia and Mexico, and his trip earlier this year to Israel and Europe. The anchors did not link up with him during those excursions.

There was little ado about McCain’s trip with Lieberman a few months back yet Obama will receive the “rock star” treatment from the press. However, McCain has visited Iraq several times so this will be bigger news as Obama has not been to the country since 2006.