Corridors of Power: Foreign Fact-Finding on U.S. Nominees, Decadent Mullahs, and More

Corridors of Power: Foreign Fact-Finding on U.S. Nominees, Decadent Mullahs, and More

SLIM PICKINGS FOR FACT FINDERS -- Now that both major U.S. political parties have their presidential candidates, a continuous procession of foreign government officials, politicians, and prominent journalists has come to Washington in pursuit of one objective: gaining information about what to expect from either presidency. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was an unknown quantity to foreign governments when he began his successful race for the Democratic nomination, and is still largely an unknown quantity today. In many areas, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is no better.

Hence foreign governments' quest for information on each candidate's position on energy, the environment, immigration, Europe, Russia, and a range of other global issues. With access to the candidates themselves very limited (foreigners don't vote in the election!), the fact-finders try to see top campaign aides and consult Washington's foreign policy specialists. Get-together lunches and dinners are arranged by the relevant embassies. In the Obama camp, the top draw is Susan Rice, a former top Clinton adviser who now heads the Democratic candidate's foreign policy team. For McCain, the must-see source is Randy Scheunemann, a former lobbyist and political insider who is a key figure in the McCain campaign.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is among recent foreign visitors who combined bilateral business with some probing of the future political landscape. At a recent foreign policy conference in Germany, it is said, Steinmeier got into a shouting match with McCain over Iraq. So possibly he wanted to mend his fences with the Republican candidate. In other respects, visitors surveyed by Corridors over the past three weeks say the answers they are getting from the campaigns -- surprise, surprise -- tend to be fuzzy and lacking in specifics.

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