Under New Management

By Dan Froomkin
12:44 PM ET, 04/ 8/2009

Pragmatic, humble, rational -- how much more unlike George W. Bush can you be?

Initial reviews are in from President Obama's big trip, and it seems that most observers just can't get over how much things have changed.

Michael D. Shear and Kevin Sullivan write in The Washington Post: "President Obama concluded his inaugural overseas tour Tuesday after presenting to the world a starkly different image of the United States than his predecessor had...

"Throughout his trip abroad, Obama portrayed a proud but flawed United States, using a refrain of humility and partnership in an attempt to rally allies around such issues of mutual concern as the global economy, climate change and nuclear proliferation."

David E. Sanger writes for the New York Times: "Pragmatic, conciliatory, legalistic and incremental, he pushed what might be called, with a notable exception or two, an anti-Bush doctrine.

"There was no talk of pre-emption, or of the American mission to eradicate tyranny.....

"'This trip was more about reattaching all the cars on the train and convincing the other leaders that we're no longer headed for derailment,' one of Mr. Obama's senior advisers said in London."

John F. Harris and Eamon Javers write for Politico: "He is Obama the rationalist.

"A diverse set of Obama decisions in recent days have a common theme: a leader who sees himself building a more orderly, humane world by vanquishing outdated thinking and corrupting ideology.

"With a rapid series of major announcements and rhetorical gestures, the new president has done more than turn from Bush-era policies. He has shined a vivid light on his philosophical outlook on the world — and how starkly he differs from his predecessor on basic beliefs about power, diplomacy and even human nature....

"An administration that believed in the primacy of force has been replaced by one that believes in the primacy of dialogue. A president who believed his main job in the world was to robustly assert American interests and values, even if it offended allies, has been succeeded by one who believes his main job is to gently coax and nourish communities of interest in which other nations will regard the United States as a friend....

"Conservatives are calling Obama naïve, arguing that his belief in rationalism and community is hardly realistic in a world driven by murderous hatreds and all manner of nations angling remorselessly for military and economic advantage."

The White House itself is amplifying the change theme.

Jonathan Weisman writes in the Wall Street Journal: "Obama aides describe the last eight years under President George W. Bush as a period of strained international relations and low public opinion toward the U.S. Putting those relations back on a positive trajectory was reason enough for the voyage, said Denis McDonough, a deputy national security adviser.

"Mr. McDonough said U.S. foreign policy in the Bush administration amounted to a search for silver bullets: If Iraq could be turned into a stable, democratic ally, the entire Middle East would be transformed. If the U.S. walked away from the negotiating table, North Korea would see the error of its ways and drop its nuclear program. This trip marked the return of 'consistent, persistent engagement,' he said."

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "Between Obama's outreach to local students at town halls in France and Turkey, as well as speeches and well over a dozen private meetings with individual foreign leaders, aides felt the president established a new-sheriff-in-town vibe."

Not too much happened in Iraq yesterday after I filed my last post of the day.

Steven Lee Myers and Helene Cooper write in the New York Times that "with a hint of impatience in his words, he urged Iraq's leaders to unite the country's deeply divided ethnic and sectarian factions and to incorporate them all into government and security forces."

Here's the transcript of Obama's remarks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"I remain convinced that our shared resolve and commitment to progress is greater than the obstacles that stand in our way," Obama said.

He added that "we strongly support political steps to be taken to resolve differences between various factions within Iraq and to ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future. Again, we've seen very good progress, but going forward it's absolutely critical that all Iraqis are fully integrated into the government and the security forces."

Ernesto Londoño writes in The Washington Post: "In sharp contrast to the previous U.S. presidential visit to Iraq, in December, when an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush, many Iraqis spoke approvingly of Obama on Tuesday."

Meanwhile, Peter Nicholas and Mike Dorning warn in the Los Angeles Times that Obama may be traveling too much. "[N]ext week, with barely time to pack fresh shirts and refuel Air Force One, he's off again -- first to Mexico, then to a summit meeting in the Caribbean.

"It's the sort of thing that can get a political leader into trouble, jetting out of town while the home front suffers."

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