Late this spring, Republicans delighted in bashing Obama for his two-plus year absence from Iraq--the implication being that Obama wouldn't merit a Situation Room seat until he'd boarded a trans-Atlantic flight. But, as Obama's itinerary has taken shape in recent weeks, suddenly the McCain campaign has soured on the idea...It is, of course, hard to not to notice that the McCainiacs had been playing a bit of politics themselves, dwelling on Obama's lightly-used passport as evidence of his inexperience. Except that the politics abruptly changed when the Obamanauts called their bluff--and took every cameraman in the Amtrak corridor along for the ride. Somehow it didn't occur to the McCainiacs until too late that an Obama world tour might become the media event of the season...

For all of this, the McCain campaign has only itself to blame. The problem with making an incredibly superficial critique of an opponent is that it can be rebutted incredibly superficially. The Democrats fell into this trap into the 1990s when, rather than critique Republicans on policy grounds, they denounced them as racist meanies. Then, as my colleague Jon Chait has written, Bush came along and surrounded himself with cute black and Hispanic kids. This didn't affect his policies one lick, but it did defuse the Democratic charges.


The McCain campaign made a similar mistake by equating Obama's foreign travel with his fitness to be president. As with the Democrats and Bush, they may have a case to make on the underlying merits. But, if things go according to plan for Obama this week, they will only have helped ensure it won't be heard.

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