Steve Clemons argues that Barack Obama’s making a blunder by skipping Brussels on his upcoming European trip, and while the thought hadn’t even occurred to me before he brought it up, I’ve got to agree with him:
He’s hitting France, Germany, the UK — and all of that is good.
But Brussels is the capital of Europe. It is the promise of what Europe is struggling to become that makes Brussels a vital stopover point. Obama is visiting some of the key, strategic nodes that give Europe some of its legs — but the trip looks like an “Old Europe” trip, not a new one.
Clemons emphasizes the symbolic element. But beyond the abstract symbollism of the “new” Europe, there’s the very practical element of “New Europe.” I don’t think the Bush administration has made particularly good use of Eastern Europe’s pronounced affection for America, but it would be a mistake to take it for granted. No one expects an American president (or presidential candidate) to put Poland ahead of England on the itinerary, but stopping off in Brussels would be a simple way of acknowledging that when he thinks of Europe, Obama thinks of a place where Poland has a say as well.