The Note: Patriot Games

What -- 50 states aren't enough for these guys?

The latest odd turn in the race that's seen everything has Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain seeing places that presidential candidates just don't visit very often.

McCain is next up with a three-day trip to Colombia and Mexico that starts Tuesday, after two previous foreign trips this year brought him to Europe and the Middle East.

Obama is planning an extensive itinerary for next month: Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, England, France, and Germany -- just as foreign policy is set to resonate on the trail again, as Obama talks patriotism, and as Democrats seek to grab the national-security mantle from McCain (under the cover of downed fighter planes).

This latest Obama introduction starts at home, with a "major speech" on patriotism scheduled for Independence, Mo., Monday morning. (Fun game: Count the American flags -- including the pin on Obama's lapel -- at the event site.)

Independence Day means patriot's week for Obama: "The message will be that love of country is not defined only by such traditional measures as serving in the military or tracing one's ancestors to the Mayflower," John McCormick writes in the Chicago Tribune. "Patriotism, he and his supporters will say, can be reflected in living the national dream, which in Obama's case means rising as the Hawaiian-born son of a Kenyan father and Kansan mother to professional and political prominence."

"In the coming days, Obama is expected to visit some traditionally red states as he seeks to broaden the electoral battleground," McCormick writes. "Over the weekend, his campaign also announced a trip this summer to Europe and the Middle East, where Obama's popularity could be on display and his standing as a diplomatic figure boosted."

We've done the math for you: The candidates' foreign destinations award a grand total of zero electoral votes.

But the coming trips provide opportunities for both men in the tentative definitional dance of the early stage of the general election. And risks: Gaffes carry a multiplier of approximately three when committed abroad, and the visuals are not always under the control of a campaign operating in foreign territory.

For McCain, R-Ariz., foreign travel may make him look presidential -- but if this race turns on the economy, shouldn't it be the American economy he's focusing on?

"It is an effort to pad his foreign-policy credentials, appear statesmanlike and drive home a message about trade and international relations," Laura Meckler writes of McCain's travels in The Wall Street Journal. "It isn't clear how much the trip will benefit Sen. McCain's No. 1 mission: being elected president. . . . Highlighting trade at a time when many Americans are nervous about their jobs may not be a political winner back home."

It's the presidency via passport: "This week, when Barack Obama campaigns in Ohio and Colorado, John McCain will be visiting Colombia and Mexico. It's an unusual path for McCain to follow. But even more, it's a risky strategy for his presidential campaign," Mark Z. Barabak writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Not since Richard M. Nixon traveled to all 50 states in 1960, fulfilling a pledge he came to regret, has a presidential candidate followed an itinerary that appears so at odds with his political needs."

What else is he looking for? "I don't think John McCain gains anything from anymore foreign trips," Matthew Dowd told ABC's David Wright on "Good Morning America" Monday. "I think that he's got that credential. I think that what he has to do is demonstrate that he has a voice on the economy and healthcare."

With foreign travel and affairs as backdrop, a new line of attack from Democrats. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark questions McCain's military record: "He hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded -- that wasn't a wartime squadron," Clark said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."

Said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers: "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to question John McCain's military service, that's their right. But let's please drop the pretense that Barack Obama stands for a new type of politics."

Politico's Ben Smith has intriguing details to take the storyline a bit further: "Farther to the left -- and among some of McCain's conservative enemies as well -- harsher attacks are circulating. Critics have accused McCain of war crimes for bombing targets in Hanoi in the 1960s. Sunday, a widely read liberal blog accused McCain of 'disloyalty' during his captivity in Vietnam for his coerced participation in propaganda films and interviews after he'd been tortured."

Obama gets his foreign turn next month: He "will travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, the United Kingdom, France and Germany," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "He will be visiting Iraq and Afghanistan this time along with a congressional delegation, and will follow those visits with a separate international sojourn to the other countries," Tapper writes.

But he's not doing it entirely on his own terms. "Why have foreign affairs become the central battleground in the presidential race?" ABC's John Hendren reports. "For McCain, the answer is simple: The candidate who's acknowledged that economics aren't his strong suit is a veteran, a prisoner of war and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who's been to Iraq eight times. For Obama, there was little choice. He's been hammered repeatedly by McCain."

GOP operatives have been mocking Obama for how long it's been since he last visited Iraq -- and how does he win by going? If he acknowledges security gains, how does he not acknowledge that his plans for troop withdrawal may need to be altered? And if he doesn't, how does he not sound like a partisan?

"With the general election four months away, Obama's rhetoric on the topic [of Iraq] now seems outdated and out of touch, and the nominee-apparent may have a political problem concerning the very issue that did so much to bring him this far," George Packer writes in The New Yorker. "He doubtless realizes that his original plan, if implemented now, could revive the badly wounded Al Qaeda in Iraq, reënergize the Sunni insurgency, embolden Moqtada al-Sadr to recoup his militia's recent losses to the Iraqi Army, and return the central government to a state of collapse."

One McCain adviser tells The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: "He is in a bad place. Caught between his promise to his base and the reality on the ground. Immediate withdrawal isn't a good place to be."

A hint of how careful he'll have to be: "In Iraq, my goal is to talk to the Iraqi leadership about making political progress so that we can start phasing down our troops in Iraq and obviously I want to congratulate the troops for the extraordinary work they've done in reducing violence there," Obama tells Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson.

The Washington Times' Joseph Curl rounds up the foreign-policy gaffes that have sidetracked Obama early on. "Mr. Obama, on the plus side, is extremely popular in Europe, and an enthusiastic welcome will likely play endlessly on U.S. cable news programs. But a major misstep will open the door to fierce criticism."

The real world intrudes: The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde have the scoop on a delayed "secret plan to make it easer for the Pentagon's Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda."

"But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light," they write. "The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was 'mounting frustration' in the Pentagon at the continued delay." And Seymour Hersh, with another one of those New Yorker bombshells: "Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership."

Until the candidates pack their bags, the coin of the realm in matters domestic and foreign is consistency. And we now see what both Obama and McCain risk losing with their concessions to calculation.

"Sen. John McCain's allies have seized on a new and aggressive line of attack against Sen. Barack Obama, casting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee as an opportunistic and self-obsessed politician who will do and say anything to get elected," Michael Shear writes in The Washington Post. (What took so long?)

"[Obama adviser Steve] Schmidt said in an interview that the campaign intends to point out 'every day' that Obama broke his promise to accept public financing for his campaign, and that he has not made good on his pledge to debate his Republican opponent anytime and anywhere," Shear continues.

"The new Republican theme moves the campaign argument away from policy disagreements -- of which there are many -- to the realm of character, where McCain aides think their candidate is untouchable. But the tactic has potential risks for McCain, who has said repeatedly over the past several months that he will run a 'respectful' campaign that does not engage in the politics of personal destruction."

McCain himself teed it up over the weekend at a Louisville fundraiser: "You know, this election is about trust, and trusting people's word," McCain told donors, per ABC's Bret Hovell. "And unfortunately, apparently, on several items, Sen. Obama's word cannot be trusted."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., hits the next GOP talking point: "The question really remains, when has Barack Obama stood up and taken on his party on anything of national significance?" Pawlenty said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

There's an opening here that's bigger than the sum of its (flip-flopping) parts: "Since he clinched the nomination, Obama has become a fairly traditional presidential candidate, shoring up the party base by telling interest groups what they want to hear," Newsweek's Evan Thomas writes. "Obama gets testy or huffy when reporters draw attention to his expediency."

Mind the brand: "Obama has risen like a rocket through this election season because he has looked, sounded and operated differently. But in the last two weeks, he has lost altitude as he gets closer and closer to taking possession of the real presidential seal, not just the embarrassing facsimile launched by his overconfident staff," writes Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin. "A pattern is becoming clear."

Not that McCain hasn't provided ammunition of his own: "McCain, too, has become an uncharacteristically cautious pol of late. The candidate who once loved to riff on the record for hours with reporters can now be seen reading his talking points from index cards," Thomas writes in Newsweek.

Can a new plane recapture an old image? "The aircraft, a Boeing 737-400, which has the 'Straight Talk' logo emblazoned on its fuselage, tries to recreate the feel of the back of Mr. McCain's campaign bus in a special area near the front of the plane," Michael Cooper reports in The New York Times.

Obama can play the consistency game, too: "I know he talked about [his commitment to immigration reform] when he just spoke before you, but what he didn't mention is that when he was running for his party's nomination, he walked away from that commitment," Obama said Saturday, per ABC's Bret Hovell and Jennifer Duck.

And on immigration, Tom Tancredo looms: "I expect to be supporting him in November," Tancredo, R-Colo., tells Time's Michael Scherer. "But certainly it is not set in stone."

Scherer: "Tancredo is not the only one unclear about McCain's immigration position after the contentious primary campaign, in which the issue regularly polled as the second most important among likely [Republican] voters, next to the Iraq war. . . . More recently, however, McCain has switched back to his earlier rhetoric on the issue."

Speaking of consistency . . . McCain got what he needed out of North Carolina on Sunday. "Senator John McCain, who has had trouble courting faith-based voters, went to the mountaintop on Sunday -- Billy Graham's Blue Ridge mountaintop retreat in western North Carolina, that is -- and met with the evangelist and his son the Rev. Franklin Graham for a private, 45-minute conversation," Robert D. McFadden writes in The New York Times. "There were no endorsements after the meeting at the rustic retreat."

He may be a maverick, but he's no moderate: "At a time when the Republican president's approval ratings are in the cellar, it's helpful for the Republican vying to replace him to have a certain reputation: maverick," Wes Allison writes in the St. Petersburg Times.

"But McCain's 21-year record in the U.S. Senate, as well as many of the positions he has taken as a candidate, shows he is a solid conservative who generally supports the Republican orthodoxy," Allison writes. "In terms of ideology and matters of peace and prosperity -- taxes, health care, economic policy, the war in Iraq -- McCain and President Bush are nearly indistinguishable, favoring the free market over government intervention, cutting taxes for the rich and corporations, and preferring pressure or estrangement over negotiation with America's enemies."

And who does the defense establishment really want as president? "In more than two decades in Congress, Senator John McCain has earned a reputation as a leading defense hawk, using his perch on the powerful Armed Services Committee and his war-hero status to advocate for a stronger military," Bryan Bender writes in The Boston Globe. "But in the plush office towers of some of America's leading defense companies, the recipients of billions of dollars of Pentagon contracts each year, the presumptive Republican nominee for president has another label: persona non grata."

The Sked:

The Democratic Leadership Council's "national conversation" wraps up Monday in Chicago -- with just enough possible vice presidents to make it interesting, but the presumptive Democratic nominee himself not in his hometown for the occasion.

McCain campaigns in Pennsylvania, with a 12:30 pm ET news conference in Harrisburg, in his last day on the trail before traveling to Latin America.

Obama follows Harry Truman's footsteps to Independence, Mo., for the 10 am ET patriotism speech Monday. Per his campaign: "On this Fourth of July week, Senator Obama will discuss what patriotism means to him and what it requires of all Americans who loves this country and want to see it do better."

(Who's Dewey and who's Truman this year? Some interesting historical parallels, courtesy of Tom Abrahams of KTRK-TV, ABC's Houston affiliate.)

Peace in Our Time:

Unity achieved (physically, if not spiritually), Bill Clinton is ready to make nice: Terry McAuliffe told CNN Sunday he expects the former president to pick up the phone and reach out to Obama "in the next 24 to 48 hours."

"Is he somewhat angry, as I am, and others, at some of the treatment Hillary Clinton received from the press? Sure. But, you know, that's life," McAuliffe said. "They'll talk, and off we will go."

But it may take more than a phone call: "Barack Obama quickly determined what Hillary Clinton wants in the aftermath of defeat: a major role in the general election campaign, a star turn at the convention, help with her debt, and Obama's support for elected officials who backed her," Tom Edsall writes for Huffington Post. "The big-time holdout turns out to be her husband. Bill is more complex. He wants respect, absolution and love."

Clintonistas are still seething, but this may help: Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., tells ABC's David Chalian that he's ready to help pay down Sen. Clinton's campaign debt. "We've been asked to help. So in principle we are going to help," Richardson said.

The Wives:

It's not easy being loaded: "When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees."

Michelle Obama tells USA Today's Jill Lawrence that she's being careful on the trail: "I don't want to be a distraction. I want to be a part of the solution," she said. On the way she's been attacked, she said: "I'm no different from Hillary [Rodham Clinton] or anyone else who has been a political target. There is strategy involved. It's not personal."

Per Lawrence: "This summer, the primaries finally over, Obama is filling in her schedule with events that underscore her roles as girlfriend and working mom."

Barack says "no" to a Michelle makeover: "She doesn't need to be retooled. She's fabulous as she is," Obama said in an interview with Black Enterprise's Ed Gordon. "The only thing I thing that we want to make sure of is that when she's attacked, she's defended, because of the other side hasn't had quorums about trying to mischaracterize her or attack her in ways that I find very offensive."


Where to play? "The emerging political reversals of the two Virginias are part of a national shift that has been underway for at least a decade and is expected to reveal itself more clearly than ever this November," Alec MacGillis writes in the Sunday Washington Post. "As the gap grows between places that are prospering and those that are not, Democrats are strengthening their hold in major metropolitan areas, particularly in places faring well in the technology-driven economy."

"Democrats face a strategic decision that has bedeviled their party for 40 years: How hard should they fight in the South?" Robin Toner writes in The New York Times. "Officials in Mr. Obama's campaign say they are bullish on the South, and they have signaled their aggressiveness with early campaign appearances in North Carolina and Virginia, major voter registration drives in the region, and television advertising in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia."

If that's going to work, it's going to be because this works: "Sen. Obama reckons that a surge in black voters will put in play long-solid Republican regions across the country, lifting Democratic candidates for all offices, from the White House to Congress to state legislatures," Christopher Cooper and Susan Davis write in The Wall Street Journal.

Key observation: "The presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, has no parallel major voter-registration operation," Cooper and Davis write.

Obama wants this to work, too: "On Saturday, more than 4,000 people hosted Unite for Change house parties -- some with cutesy food names -- in honor of the presumptive Democratic nominee, an effort to build the campaign's grass-roots supporters into a force that can't be stopped in November," Christina Bellantoni writes in the Washington Times. "It's part of the multifaceted 'persuasion army' Team Obama hopes to build to do much of its work in the final days of the election, convincing neighbors block by block why the Democrat should be president."

He wants this to just stop: "Here in Findlay, a Rust Belt town of 40,000, false rumors about Obama have built enough word-of-mouth credibility to harden into an alternative biography," Eli Saslow writes in The Washington Post. "Born on the Internet, the rumors now meander freely across the flatlands of northwest Ohio -- through bars and baseball fields, retirement homes and restaurants."

Obama has come out against the proposed California gay-marriage ban: "As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law," he said in a statement, per

What do you think the No. 1 issue might be over the congressional recess? "The party campaign committees prepared to turn up the heat on vulnerable incumbents as they returned home by running attack ads that focused on pain at the pump," Lauren W. Whittington reports for Roll Call. "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is set to run 60-second radio ads this week targeting 13 GOP lawmakers. The spots feature a President Bush impersonator leaving a telephone message for the Member being targeted. The faux Bush uses a different nickname for each lawmaker."

From the DCCC spot: "'Preciate you voting to keep giving billions in tax breaks to the big oil companies," fake Bush says to the members in the radio spots. "Sure, gasoline is over four bucks a gallon and the oil companies are making record profits, but what's good for Big Oil is good for America, right? I guess that's why they call us the Grand OIL Party. Heh, heh, heh."


The Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus does the handicapping: "McCain is tempted to choose his friend Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat-turned-independent who has campaigned for the presumed Republican nominee. But he's more likely to go with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, actual Republicans, who would be more palatable to the party's conservative core."

"Obama is reported to be considering Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, two Democrats with formidable national security credentials, but he's more likely to settle on Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware or Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana," McManus writes.

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who battled Obama for the nomination, is not likely to be chosen, Democratic strategists have concluded -- if only because her husband, former President Clinton, has conspicuously failed to make peace with the man who defeated his wife."

Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., isn't in the job market -- yet. "It's my intention to walk out the door of the [state] capital, the Lord willing, in January of 2011," Rendell said on Fox News Sunday. "And if there was a position open that I was interested in, like energy or transportation, I'd be honored to serve in an Obama administration, but not at the beginning, not until my time is finished."

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., isn't in the job market -- period (basically). "It's very flattering, but I am not interested. That's it," Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., tells the AP's Andrew Miga.

Former rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, pretends not to know if a job market exists: "I don't know, and I don't expect to be asked, honestly."

Stu Rothenberg talks up Carly Fiorina: "Sure, plenty of Republicans have been mentioned as possible running mates for the Arizona Republican, but none of them seem particularly helpful to McCain," Rothenberg writes. "Fiorina is obviously smart and articulate, is comfortable in the media spotlight and, frankly, looks like a national political leader. She is comfortable talking about the economy and about business, two things that McCain doesn't deal with well. Her gender is an obvious asset."

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., isn't endorsing either candidate, but he'd think about any job offer from Obama: "I would have to consider it," Hagel told Bloomberg's Al Hunt.

Newseek's Andrew Romano categorizes by archetype -- find out why Tim Pawlenty is Spiro Agnew.

Third-Party Problems:

Sunday Noise from candidate Nos. 3 and 4:

"He's backed off on so many things. He voted for the war -- except once, funding for the war," independent candidate Ralph Nader said of Obama on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos. But this bottom line: "Anybody would be better than the Republicans," Nader said.

"What's wrong with John McCain is symptomatic of what's wrong with the Republican Party in these first years of the 21st century," Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr said on "Fox News Sunday." "They talk one thing but do something different, and that's become very obvious to the American people."

Et Cetera:

The scene from Orlando: "Two dozen cars were vandalized in a downtown parking lot Saturday, causing more than $10,000 in damage, with some of it appearing to be politically motivated," per the Orlando Sentinel's Sara Clarke. "According to pictures from the scene, the vandals tagged notes such as 'Obama smokes crack.' They left business card-sized notes that disparaged Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama on one side, while supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton on the other."

Say it ain't so: "Every four years, the red vinyl booths of the Merrimack Restaurant served as the backdrop for aspiring presidential candidates as they mingled with the people of New Hampshire," Noah Bierman writes in The Boston Globe. "They ordered the eggs, drank the coffee, and chatted with the waitresses. The television cameras followed them from booth to booth. Print reporters scribbled notes."

"But Merrimack's customers will have to find somewhere else to get their omelets and their slice of politics now. The diner, a staple since 1980, closed its doors this weekend for good."

The Kicker:

"They've got me muzzled. . . . Now don't you print that. . . . I really don't like to be interviewed." -- Roberta McCain, to the Los Angeles Times' James Rainey, who went straight to the source when the McCain campaign wouldn't set up a formal interview.

Bookmark The Note at

Interns for the ABC News Political Unit:

The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking three full-time fall interns in Washington, D.C.

The internship begins Monday, Aug. 4 and runs through Friday, Dec. 12.

Not only do Political Unit interns attend political events and collaborate on stories for the politics page of, they also help us by conducting research, maintaining contact lists, and monitoring conference calls convened for reporters by the presidential campaigns.

In order to apply, you MUST be either a graduate student or an undergraduate student who has completed his or her first year of college.

The internship is NOT open to recent graduates.

You also must be able to work eight hours per day, starting early, Monday through Friday.

Interns will be paid $8.50/hour.

If you write well, don't mind getting up early, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to as soon as possible, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps.

Please indicate in your cover letter the dates of your availability.