CBS: Obama Has Chance to Be ‘Statesman,’ Show ‘Gravitas’

Maggie Rodriguez and Shelia Macvicar, CBS On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Sheila MacVicar reported on Barack Obama’s upcoming international tour and declared: "...Senator Obama is taking to the skies to stride on the world stage. It's a chance for Americans to take a look at how he measures up as a statesman...it's an attempt to demonstrate he has the necessary gravitas to maneuver through diplomatic minefields, especially in the Middle East."

MacVicar then explained how well-received Obama’s troop withdrawal plan would be to the Iraqi people:

...people know he has proposed to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months. American presidents have not been popular here for nearly 20 years. But Iraqis say they do want U.S. troops to go home. 'I'm for withdraw now,' says this shopper. 'The Americans have caused all our problems.' 'If Obama's plan is true,' he says, 'we bless it. We need withdraw today.'

MacVicar then looked at the rest of Obama’s planned trip: "On to Europe where many are enthusiastic." She quoted one British citizen who claimed: "If there were a vote here in the UK he'd probably win something like 5-1." MacVicar concluded her report by observing: "There's no question...that even this far away Mister -- Senator Obama, more than any other recent presidential candidate, excites great interest."

MacVicar did describe some of Obama’s international incidents, one of which was the fact that Obama "angered Palestinians" by being too pro-Israel. Another was that: "...the German chancellor has accused him of overreaching, by trying to make a speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gates... That's a location, the German government says, for elected presidents."

MacVicar’s fawning was somewhat countered by former Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to afterward and asked: "But who he needs to win over is not so much the people over there as people over here who have doubts about his foreign policy experience. How -- what are his challenges?" Luntz replied by pointing out that: " You've got to remember that Obama's only been a senator for three years. So a lot is at stake here."

Rodriguez followed up by asking about Obama’s numerous foreign policy advisors: "And you know he has, front page of the New York Times, a group of 300 people advising him on foreign policy. I'm sure that they have given him talking points on every possible issue that could come up, told him what to say." To that Luntz recalled past foreign policy failures by inexperienced Democratic presidents: "But so did John Kennedy when he negotiated with Nikita Khruschev. So did Jimmy Carter in his situation with Iran. And both of them, who had less foreign policy experience, both of them made serious mistakes in their administrations that cost the U.S. a lot."

The final question from Rodriguez was: "Can John McCain even compete next week?" Luntz responded: "...McCain's been doing this for 30 years and I think that's what he needs to point out. Obama's taking his first international trip, his first significant trip. John McCain has been taking significant trips for 30 years." It is certainly hard for McCain to compete when all three network news anchors have decided to hop on Obama’s campaign plane for the trip.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:08AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: In an effort to boost his foreign policy credentials, Senator Barack Obama plans to embark on a tour of Europe and the Middle East. CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar is in London this morning. Good morning, Shelia.

SHEILA MACVICAR: Good morning, Maggie. Well to win votes at home Senator Obama is taking to the skies to stride on the world stage. It's a chance for Americans to take a look at how he measures up as a statesman. And a chance for citizens of a foreign country to take a closer look at a man who will have a big impact on their lives if he becomes president. A whirlwind 12,000 miles in the middle of an election campaign is an unusual choice for any candidate. For Senator Obama, it's an attempt to demonstrate he has the necessary gravitas to maneuver through diplomatic minefields, especially in the Middle East. He'll head to Iraq, where people know he has proposed to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months. American presidents have not been popular here for nearly 20 years. But Iraqis say they do want U.S. troops to go home. 'I'm for withdraw now,' says this shopper. 'The Americans have caused all our problems.' 'If Obama's plan is true,' he says, 'we bless it. We need withdraw today.' The Senator has already angered Palestinians with this statement:

BARACK OBAMA: And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.

MACVICAR: President Clinton proposed Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Obama has had to back track, but Palestinians and Israelis have been left wondering if he really understands the complexity of their situation. On to Europe where many are enthusiastic.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If there were a vote here in the UK he'd probably win something like 5-1.

MACVICAR: But the German Chancellor has accused him of overreaching, by trying to make a speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gates, symbolic of freedom.

RONALD REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

MACVICAR: That's a location, the German government says, for elected presidents. There's no question, Maggie, that even this far away Mister -- Senator Obama, more than any other recent presidential candidate, excites great interest. However, his meetings with presidents and prime ministers will be a little more formal. There's no point in building a very warm relationship if he's not the next inhabitant of the White House come January. Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, not just yet. Thank you. CBS's Sheila MacVicar in London, thank you. We're joined now by political analyst, Frank Luntz, author of 'Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear.' Good morning Frank.

FRANK LUNTZ: Nice to be here.

RODRIGUEZ: Nice to have you. Tell us, what do you think is at stake during this trip?

FRANK LUNTZ: I don't know of a time when a challenger has had the kind of exposure, the kind of focus, that Barack Obama has. This is more attention to a foreign trip than even President Bush would get. You've got politics involved, you've got personalities and policies. On the politics, this is a guy who the world community is watching. They're going to line up by the thousands to get a chance to wave at him. And you know that he's going to get a good public response in every country, with perhaps, the exception of Israel. In the policies, his positions are closer to these European and Arab nations than what the president's are. But one slip up, one mistake and John McCain will pounce.

RODRIGUEZ: But who he needs to win over is not so much the people over there as people over here who have doubts about his foreign policy experience. How -- what are his challenges?

LUNTZ: But his campaign is smart. Because they know that if the American people see Europeans applauding the U.S. after protesting us for the last five years, it's going to have a very positive effect. Conversely, if he shows, if he is shown not to have the kind of experience and to say something that might go wrong, that's the opening. You've got to remember that Obama's only been a senator for three years. So a lot is at stake here.

RODRIGUEZ: And you know he has, front page of the New York Times, a group of 300 people advising him on foreign policy. I'm sure that they have given him talking points on every possible issue that could come up, told him what to say.

LUNTZ: But so did John Kennedy when he negotiated with Nikita Khruschev. So did Jimmy Carter in his situation with Iran. And both of them, who had less foreign policy experience, both of them made serious mistakes in their administrations that cost the U.S. a lot. That being said, you tell me a presidential candidate who's had all three network anchors following along for the ride. This is unprecedented.

RODRIGUEZ: Can John McCain even compete next week?

LUNTZ: Probably McCain's best response is just to go out and raise some money and wait and see what Obama says. Because McCain's been doing this for 30 years and I think that's what he needs to point out. Obama's taking his first international trip, his first significant trip. John McCain has been taking significant trips for 30 years.

RODRIGUEZ: Frank Luntz, thank you so much.

LUNTZ: Pleasure.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC