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FixCam Week in Preview: The European Edition

All eyes are on Sen. Barack Obama this week as he makes his long anticipated tour of the Middle East and Europe -- his first since becoming the Democratic nominee for president and likely his last before the general election this fall.

The Obama trip is split into two sections -- an "official" Senate trip (known as a CODEL) that includes his stops in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and a segment organized by his campaign that features stops in Germany, France and London.

It's hard to overstate the stakes for Obama on this trip. Poll after poll reveals that one of the major (and only) advantages that Sen. John McCain has over Obama currently is on the question of who is ready to be commander-in-chief. In the recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 72 percent said McCain would make a good commander-in-chief while just 48 percent said the same of Obama.

A trip like this one -- particularly his stops in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan -- has the potential to change the way Obama is viewed by the average voter. This trip has already drawn wall to wall media coverage (Obama's stops in Afghanistan and Iraq led the Post's website for much of the last two days) and will get even more attention as the week goes on as the Illinois senator is slated to grant interviews with all three network anchors.

Obama's trip got off on the right foot over the weekend when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared to endorse the Illinois senator's plan to remove all American combat troops from the country in 16 months. (A spokesman for al-Maliki later backed off those comments, insisting they had been "mistranslated", after a call from the U.S. officials in Iraq.)

McCain's campaign reacted swiftly -- noting that Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday that a timed withdrawal could be "dangerous", and organizing a conference call with reporters this morning to raise questions about Obama's willingness to listen to commanders on the ground during his trip to Iraq.

Randy Scheunemann, McCain's senior foreign policy adviser, called this a "watershed moment" for Obama during a conference call with reporters this morning. "Will he listen to our commanders in the field....or is he going to stubbornly adhere to his politically motivated plan," asked Scheunemann.

There will be NO other story this week in the political world. How Obama performs on the world stage will not only dominate the week but will have significant repercussions for the fall campaign as well.

And, last but not least, the winner of our "Who Won the Week" competition. If it's you, make sure to send your mailing address and preferred official Fix t-shirt size to chris DOT cillizza AT washingtonpost DOT com.

The winning post:

"Obama is the clear winner this week. No gaffes and the shifts in the current administration's policy seem to vindicate Obama's positions after all the appeaser and naive innuendo. Even the media storm surrounding the New Yorker cartoon ended up working for Obama because it made right wing hosts denounce some of the nuttier smears against Obama (which they themselves had been fueling) out of fear of being lumped together with the tin foil hat crowd.....The news cycles this week really helped Obama without his campaign having to try to influence them. The release of his June fundraising figures should have been the cherry on top, but then along came Maliki. The cherry on top of the cherry."

Posted by: Lmw

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 21, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  FixCam  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Sunday Conversation: McCain's New Ad
Next: Clinton Operatives Land


You expect to much. After all, he is just the Paris Hilton of Politics (famous for being famous). And as far as his Excellent Adventure - he's just trying to get his Forrest Gump on (associate himself with someone else's history/ accomplishment).

Posted by: lucky | July 22, 2008 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Whigs ~~ Thanks for the post. It is always great to get a directly informed opinion.

Posted by: Arlington Voter | July 21, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

ooh boy that is one noble attempt at a british accent...

by the way chris did you notice all the bills co-sponsored between Joe Biden and someone across the aisle?

it's a downright flourish of bipartisan work... hmmmm.

Posted by: dl | July 21, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

AlanInMissoula, pls eml me at

all will be explained!

Posted by: MarkInAustin | July 21, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

alaninMissoula, thanks for the info on Rasmussen. I'm really interested in how they model their sample with respect to self-identified Dems vs. Repubs.

Also, if you get the chance, please drop a line to Mark in Austin...

Posted by: bsimon | July 21, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

thanks for giving me a great first impression of you chris

Video of unenthusiastic anti-obama Protest

Posted by: captainhawk | July 21, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

wow! whigs are everywhere? hmmm.... didn't the last whig sign the fugitive slave act into law?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Wow I can't believe you kept that hat and that poor excuse for an accent up for a full 1:47...impressive? depressing? I think both apply. j/k

On a more serious note, I think many in the punditry are missing the real hit to McCain and Bush that Malaki's statements make. Timelines are one thing, but what's implicitly clear about the PM's comment is that he foresees absolutely no long term US presence in Iraq. McCain, who envisioned a long-term miliatry base similar to South Korea, is still claiming that even with the benefit of hindsight, the decision to invade was the correct one. That's his political liability, despite no reporter asking the question as of yet. With no WMD's, none of Osama's forces present prior to our invasion, and now without the hope of a military base inside the country, what strategic goals have been achieved that have made Americans safer? With looming tensions with Iran, this singular piece of judgement is extermely important.

Posted by: jslotterback | July 21, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Lmw had a witty post and it was right on. Good choice for best posting.

The Rassmussen polls are viewed with skepticism by most pros. The calls to participants are automated "robo calls" thus experts see them as much too open for statistical flaws.

Posted by: AlaninMissoula | July 21, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"Following a meeting between Obama and Maliki, an Iraqi government spokesman seemed to sweep away the weekend's translation controversy by saying he hopes U.S. combat forces will leave the country by 2010 -- roughly the same timeline as Obama's."

Posted by: UPDATE!!!!! | July 21, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I am increasingly skeptical of the Rasmussen polls. The info about their sample is 'premium' content, but without it, it is impossible to determine whether there is inherent bias in their data.

I find it hard to believe that 40% of Americans think the media is reporting the war in Iraq and/or the economy as being 'worse' than they really are.

Posted by: bsimon | July 21, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

aspengirl, do you have an IQ of 12? The MSM has love affair going with McCain. They ignore his Gaffes of the Day and fawn all over him.

fHe doesn't even know Czechoslvakia doesn't exist anymore. But then, you probably don't either.

Posted by: Mike | July 21, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"A growing percentage of voters ... believe that most reporters are trying to help Obama win the election. Forty-nine percent (49%) hold that view while only 14% believe reporters are trying to help McCain. Other data shows that voters tend to think reporters are trying to make both the economy and Iraq seem worse than they really are."

The Rasmussen survey results tend to support the idea that the popular voter is, increasingly, aware of the shilling for Obama that the mainstream media is engaged in. So this article can crow about Obama winning the week and the poster who says the media seems to have given a boost to Obama. But I think that the media-manufactured non-issue flaps, and the way the media is relentlessly shilling and spinning these flaps for Obama, is getting old as well as obvious.

Posted by: AsperGirl | July 21, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday on The Chris Matthews Show on NBC, Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman revealed one of the reasons President Bush is pushing so hard for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to win the election in November:

FINEMAN: There's also fear. If you're in this White House, you want another Republican administration to follow. You don't want a Democratic administration coming in there while the evidence is still fresh, so to speak.

MATTHEWS: With the subpoena power.

FINEMAN: With the subpoena power. And looking through all the records and looking through all the decisions that were made. You want cover over your two terms with a third term, the way Ronald Reagan did with George H.W. Bush.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

cc Please stop i love ya buddy but you can't do the accent again agian it is just vomit worthy

Posted by: andy from reisterstown | July 21, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

McCain's senior foreign policy adviser.
Randy Scheunemann has a significant financial interest in our troops staying in Iraq and keeping the oil flowing...

'McCain's senior foreign policy and national security adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is listed as a member of Worldwide Strategic Energy's executive team in a pre-prospectus obtained by Majikthise.

He is a close business associate of Stephen Payne, the lobbyist caught on tape offering access to top administration officials in exchange for donations to the Bush Library.

This is explosive news because Payne's company's entire business model is international influence peddling in exchange for oil and gas leases from politically unstable and dictatorial regimes.

This document was circulated to prospective investors in 2007, according to the source who provided the document.

Payne is the president and CEO of WSE. The firm Bracewell Giuliani is prominently listed as WSE's outside strategic and legal counsel. "Among this group are former top officials with FERC as well as former top administrators with state and federal agencies that regulate the public utilities and oil and gas industries," the brochure enthuses.

The document explains WSE's business model. The company is seeking oil and gas leases in "politically complicated" and "often misunderstood" countries.

Here's what the brochure has to say about Randy Scheunemann's influence-peddling mojo:

'In 2002, Randy Scheunemann founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) to promote freedom for the Iraqi people. He served as pro bono President and Executive Director of CLI until its mission was completed in 2003. During CLI's operations, Scheunemann recruited more than 50 distinguished individuals to serve on CLI's Advisory Boards.

And later:

Randy Scheunemann is a registered representative of the Government of Georgia in the United States. Accordingly, Mr. Scheunemann has developed a very close relationship with President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and many senior Georgian officials. The WSE team has also begun negotiating possible deals with the Georgian state-run oil company, National Oil Company of Georgia, to assist in the development of Georgia's hydrocarbon industry.

And perhaps most disturbing of all, the brochure brags about Scheunemann's role in selling the Iraq war:

Some of the team's strongest relationships are in Iraq. Randy Scheunemann was a key player in the U.S. involvement in the Iraq war through his role as the President of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq where he coordinated the White House's "Outside the Government" public relations campaign on Iraq while administering relationships with key Iraqi leaders in exile. Randy's work with the then-exiled Iraqis developed close relationships with many elements of the elected Iraqi leadership. The team has also worked very closely with leaders of the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish parties. Additionally, Stephen Payne has been to Iraq 3 times.

The brochure features a photo of Stephen Payne, Ahmed Chalabi, and Randy Scheunemann. "

You see, it's all about the oil. Always has been.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

As far as I can McCain's experience with the Military was getting shot down, after he crashed two other planes. Oy Vey.

Posted by: Patrick NYC | July 21, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It should be no surprise that adding 30,000 excellent troops in Iraq resulted in improvements. The question today is the same one that was obvious when John McCain and his Republican colleagues were cheerleaders for the invasion: how to get out.

McCain keeps trying to focus on the surge because he wants everybody to forget his enthusiastic support for the invasion, and parroting Bush lines about how easy it would be. When will the media challenge him on that? Or is it too much work to do more than quote today's "he said" lines?

The McCain whining about Obama getting favorable coverage seems to be working: the media are going soft on McCain.

Posted by: Bill | July 21, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"Randy Scheunemann, McCain's senior foreign policy adviser, called this a "watershed moment" for Obama during a conference call with reporters this morning. 'Will he listen to our commanders in the field....or is he going to stubbornly adhere to his politically motivated plan,' asked Scheunemann."

One thing Obama won't do is wander through a Baghdad marketplace with an escort of a Marine Corps company and a fleet of Apache gunships buzzing overhead, and say with a straight face that Baghdad is perfectly safe.

McCain hasn't a shred of credibility in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Unless Obama makes a mega-gaffe, like confusing Sunnis and Shiites or referring to Czechoslovakia, this week will be seen as the week Obama nailed down the presidency.

Posted by: bondjedi | July 21, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

The Fix writes
"McCain's campaign reacted swiftly -- noting that Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday that a timed withdrawal could be "dangerous", and organizing a conference call with reporters this morning to raise questions about Obama's willingness to listen to commanders on the ground during his trip to Iraq."

Someone should ask the McCain campaign if we are supposed to over-rule the government of Iraq in determining whether or not we keep our troops there. If the commanders on the ground want to stay, but the Iraqi gov't wants us to go, what do we do? The Bush administration has maintained that we stay at the request of the Iraqi gov't. If the gov't decides they've had enough - do we stay or do we go?

This question calls to mind the reputation that Senator McCain has for his foreign policy chops. Is such a reputation well deserved? The public & the press corps seem to grant foreign policy expertise where perhaps there is only military expertise. I have no doubt that the Senator is quite familiar with the military. I question whether he has a comprehensive foreign policy view that includes military, diplomatic & economic concerns.

Posted by: bsimon | July 21, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Maliki DID endorse Obama's position, and the Iraqi government has made it crystal clear today in ENGLISH.

Also, "the surge" worked because of diplomacy with the insurgents (as advocated by Senator Obama), not troop strength alone

Posted by: Nashville_fan | July 21, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

As a military officer, I can say the surge accomplished its goals in Iraq, but again, it was to the detriment of Afghanistan. The word from many of my colleagues is that everytime McCain takes credit for the surge, he also should take credit for the deterioration of Afghanistan because that is where a surge has always been needed. Obama will not attract public ovation among the military, but privately, he is viewed as someone who has a better grasp on these issues than McCain or Bush.
The Modern Whig Party -- For the rest of us

Posted by: Whigs are everywhere | July 21, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Will somebody tell the Washington Post editorial page rear guard that Maliki has ended the McCain presidential campaign and that it lies in ruins on the Iraq/Pakistan border.

Posted by: Jack Conway | July 21, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Its good to see that Obama was in total support of the surge that is working...or was he...according to him is always right with policy...or is he like Bush and unable to admit he was wrong on the surge. I guess we will have another Pres who does not know how to admit he was wrong...another four years.

Posted by: Indy | July 21, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Post has risen to new heights in its coverage of Maliki's endorsement of Obama's Iraq formulations.

Posted by: Harry Lime | July 21, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

During a week when McCain is the only one in the states, he is getting *awful* press! What a mess!

A smart campaign would have used Obama's trip to make up some ground on domestic issues... Oops, but then McCain would have to have a smart campaign (natch!)

Looks like Chicago wins again.

Posted by: Julia Kelly | July 21, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse


Great video!

This will will be the "pull up a commode and watch TV all week" for political junkies of your ilk.

Posted by: piktor | July 21, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Peixegato | July 21, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Great post, Chris! I forgot that McCain was still running!

Posted by: bondjedi | July 21, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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