Sen. Barack Obama's campaign today released details of the candidate's upcoming trip to the Middle East and Europe, while dismissing criticism from the McCain camp that the trip is all show.
"This is not a political trip," Obama's senior adviser Robert Gibbs said. "This is a trip of substance," ABC News' Jake Tapper reported.
The campaign confirmed some of the leaders Obama will meet, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; he'll also stop in Germany to meet with German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, and will deliver a "substantive" speech on European-American relations, said Gibbs.
Read Tapper's latest blog on the Obama trip here
The campaign has still not publicly confirmed -- presumably for security reasons -- that Obama will go to Iraq and Afghanistan, although the candidate has mentioned in recent weeks his intention to go there for a fact-finding trip.
The campaign confirmed that Obama would go to Jordan to meet King Abdullah, and to Israel to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority.
For Obama, the trip is a chance for him to be seen as a world leader, but with the klieg-light attention on him, any mistake could be crippling to his effort to be seen as a capable commander in chief.
"A gaffe could be a killer for Obama,"ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said today on "Good Morning America."
Susan Rice, a top foreign policy adviser to Obama, told reporters that the goal of the trip is "to deepen -- even further -- important relationships," and to "exchange views with leaders whose partnerships with the U.S. are critical."
The Middle East is a minefield that will challenge whoever is the nex president.
"He is facing a lot of tricky balancing acts as he goes to Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel," Stephanopoulos said. "How is he going to kind of change the perception out there because our latest poll shows that most Americans, even most Democrats, say that Sen. John McCain would be a good commander in chief. Fewer than half of those polled feel that way about Obama."
In Israel, Stephanopoulos says Obama will face" this tricky thicket over questions on the Middle East peace process. Many presidential candidates have made mistakes on that."
Weight of the World
Despite the pointed lack of details about Obama's exact itinerary, it won't be hard to find him, once he is there. All three network evening news anchors will interview Obama between his visits with foreign leaders.
The campaign's handlers believe Obama can help his standing as a world leader by being seen alongside these other leaders. That is the weakest part of his standing with voters. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that only 48 percent saw Obama as a commander in chief.
Commander in Chief Test
The campaign of Republican rival Sen. John McCain, who has been to the war zones eight times, has chafed at all the attention that Obama has been getting. McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker called it a "giant photo opportunity."
"The fact is I'm glad that he's going to Iraq. I'm glad that he's going to Afghanistan. It's long, long overdue if you want to lead this nation and secure our national security," McCain told reporters.
Obama's campaign counters, arguing that with President Bush and McCain talking about the need to send more U.S. forces to Afghanistan, as well as calling for more direct negotiations with the Iranian government, "the Bush administration and the McCain campaign have moved closer to Sen. Obama's position," Obama adviser Denis McDonough told reporters.
Said Rice, "McCain and the Bush administration are trying to play catch up and follow."
They certainly will be following Obama's trip. "I think they [McCain campaign] will look to take quick hits every day and, of course, pounce on any mistake that Barack Obama makes," Stephanopoulos said.