Story in Salon.
Doubts about Barack Obama's presidential credentials have crystallized during the past two weeks over his stewardship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on European Affairs, which has convened no policy hearings since he took over as its chairman last January. That startling fact, first uncovered by Steve Clemons, who blogs on the Washington Note, prompted acid comment in Europe about the Illinois senator's failure to visit the continent since assuming the committee post, and even speculation that he had never traveled there except for a short stopover in London. . . .
Should Obama wonder whether he ought to have bothered with his subcommittee, he could ask his friendly rival Joe Biden, D-Del., who chaired the Europe subcommittee for many years during the Cold War. Biden effectively exploited the chairmanship to transform himself from a junior member into one of the Senate's most knowledgeable experts on arms control, nuclear weapons, European attitudes toward America and the Soviet Union, the European Union's policies, and the role of NATO, which also comes under the subcommittee's mandate. As a result, Biden starred in Senate hearings on the SALT II arms treaties and eventually established himself as a leading national voice on foreign policy. . . .
Ritch points out that as subcommittee chair, Obama could have examined a wide variety of urgent matters, from the role of NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq to European energy policy and European responses to climate change -- and of course, the undermining of the foundations of the Atlantic alliance by the Bush administration. There is, indeed, almost no issue of current global interest that would have fallen outside the subcommittee's purview. . . .
Perhaps he could not have been expected to undertake an ambitious round of hearings when he was in the midst of deciding to run for president -- but that decision may merely point up the conflict between ambition and experience that has raised questions about his candidacy.
So much for what might have been. Both Obama and his campaign spokespersons have taken pains to deny the suggestion that he has spent no time in Europe. As he said at the first Democratic debate last April, Obama regards the European Union and NATO as the most important allies of the United States, which would make ignorance of Europe a huge void for an aspiring chief executive. . . .
If Obama wants to show where he has been, he merely has to release his passport records. Then everyone would know that his boast about traveling extensively in Europe is true -- even if this year he didn't have time to convene a hearing on the momentous issues affecting our relations with that continent and the world.
Great reader comment here.