Obama Returns Home After Foreign Tour

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has returned home from foreign travels that took him from the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the simmering conflict in the Middle East and to cheering crowds in Europe.

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Robert Smith, sitting in this morning for Liane Hansen. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama returned from London last night, the last stop on his European and Middle Eastern tour. Republicans have criticized Obama's nine-day trip. They called it a political stunt. But Obama says it helped firm up ties with allies. Joining us now to discuss all this is NPR's Don Gonyea who has been traveling with Obama. Good morning, Don. I hope the jetlag isn't too bad.

DON GONYEA: We'll talk about that. Good morning.

SMITH: John McCain has been criticizing Barack Obama for his lack of foreign policy experience. McCain basically dared Obama to take this trip. What do you think? Did it help beef up Obama's credentials?

GONYEA: Well, we'll have to see. There was a weakness in Senator Obama's numbers that has been consistent throughout the campaign in the area of his foreign policy experience. So what he did get out of this was a series of photos with King Abdullah, with Prime Minister Maliki, with, you know, with Prime Minister Olmert, and with President Sarkozy, and Chancellor Merkel. You know, picture after picture after picture of them greeting him, of them treating with respect, of him - you know, standing side by side with him. That has to help people imagine what he would look like on the world stage. Also, going to Iraq and Afghanistan, as he did, sure can't hurt, and it helps him talk in a more current sense about what he has seen there.

The other thing too is, you know, that there is possibility of a backlash, that people will see him as being perhaps too friendly with Europe. But there is a relatively new poll out by the Pew Research Center that shows that for the first time ever, a majority of Americans view America's, the United States', declining respect in the world as a major problem. If that is really true, then that would argue for a trip like this. And seeing 200,000, you know, screaming, enthusiastic people at a speech in Berlin could actually help him. But we just have to see.

SMITH: Of course, Europe has approximately zero electoral votes in the election.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GONYEA: Last count, yes.

SMITH: And U.S. polls suggest that McCain is actually gaining ground in some battleground states. Is there a way this trip might have hurt Obama?

GONYEA: Well, listen to what Senator Obama said about that yesterday. He spoke outside 10 Downing Street after meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London. Here is Senator Obama.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): I wouldn't even be surprised if in some polls that you saw a little bit of a dip as a consequence. We've been out of the country for a week. People are worried about gas prices. They're worried about home foreclosures. So the reason that I thought this trip was important was I am convinced that many of the issues that we face at home are not going to be solved as effectively unless we have strong partners abroad.

GONYEA: And Robert, whether this helps or not, today the domestic part of the campaign resumes. He knows that's important.

SMITH: NPR's Don Gonyea. Thank you very much.

GONYEA: It's my pleasure.

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