Robison: Obama’s first trip abroad

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(HOST) Commentator Olin Robison was impressed with President Obama’s first trip abroad – especially his decision to end his tour in Turkey.

(ROBISON) President Obama just a few days ago returned from his first trip abroad as President of the United States.  Surely it was tempting to stay overseas, considering what he has to deal with back here.

The former Vice President, Dick Cheney, said on television while Mr. Obama was abroad, that the country is "less safe" now than before.  The current Vice President, Mr. Joe Biden, subsequently announced that his predecessor was "dead wrong."  Who knows who is right or who is wrong.

Meanwhile, in Europe, which in this instance included Turkey, the Obamas were received by joyous crowds in receptions usually reserved for rock stars.  That especially applied to Michelle Obama, the President’s wife.

What we do not yet know, alas, is just how long the recession will last and how many more families will no longer have enough; how many more jobs have yet to be eliminated.

It seems doubtful to me whether there is an example in history of the reputation of the United States having sunk so low only to have recovered so quickly.  Whether you agree with him or not, surely everyone will grant him that.  The former President, Mr. George W. Bush, really does think, apparently, that over the long run we are going to view him the way we do former President Harry Truman today.  That seems to me to be unlikely.

I am, of course, predisposed to favor Obama.  I personally think he is doing well – but then I would, wouldn’t I.

Here is an example of a view that is NOT particularly partisan: I  think that the most important part of the President’s trip was to Turkey and what he had to say there. He used it as an occasion to begin the process of reaching out to the larger Muslim community.  That, in my opinion, is long overdue.

I have long thought that Turkey has a most difficult garden to tend.  It is both European and Asian, while somehow managing to be neither completely.  Some years ago I had a European ambassador to London complain to me that the Turkish Ambassador always turned up, in London of course, at the monthly breakfast for European ambassadors while, said this man, he knew that he, the Turk, also turned up at the monthly breakfast for Asian ambassadors.  My friend didn’t like that at all.  He thought that the Turk ought to choose.  I said little.  It seemed to me a rather trifling affair, even as it was indicative of the problems Turkey continues to face.

It is, of course, early in Mr. Obama’s presidency.  We will of course see how all that adulation holds up when the going gets rough – and hard, unpopular, decisions have to be made.

So, dear friends, stay tuned.  Stay tuned.  There is much more to come.

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