Lee Hamilton, the wise sage of Democratic foreign policy circles, offered a bit of advice for Barack Obama for his upcoming trip to Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq: meet world leaders, take notes, and ask a lot of questions.
"Presidents spend an awful lot of time on foreign affairs and it is important for him to get to know as many of the leaders as he can," Hamilton, who serves on an advisory committee for Obama but was speaking on his own behalf, told the Huffington Post. "They are anxious to talk to him, I think he is anxious to talk them. The trips are different. Iraq and Afghanistan will be learning trips I'm sure."
Obama has spent part of his time in the Senate traveling throughout Africa, Russia and Middle East. But he has not traveled frequently to Europe and, as the McCain campaign has repeatedly reminded the press, has not been to Iraq in more than two years. Nevertheless, Hamilton offered, this trip would be markedly different from those the Senator took in the past.
"They are very personal. I don't know if he will change his mind or not [on foreign affairs]. But he is going in an entirely different capacity. It is one thing to be a Senator; it is entirely another thing to be a possible president. Leaders are going to take him very seriously. He has a wonderful capacity to listen and ask probing questions so my guess will be that he goes into every meeting with a lot of questions on his mind, about French policy, UK policy."
To this point there has been wide speculation about how Obama will handle the war Iraq. Already, Republicans opponents are claiming that he is changing his policy on troop withdrawal. But Hamilton stressed that the presumptive Democratic nominee remains committed, as he always has been, to leaving Iraq.
"That is the key point," he said. "Will it be pursuant to the timetable or will it be pursuant to conditions or events on the ground, I don't know. But it is pretty clear that [Obama] will seek a responsible exit from Iraq."