Commentary: Middle East Trip Will Put Obama to Test

The following is a commentary by ABC News' Sam Donaldson. Click here to view a video version of Sam's latest essay

Sen. Barack Obama, goaded by Sen. John McCain, is going to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the news is that Charlie and Katie and Brian are going with him. Yes, the big three network anchors will go along, each promised an exclusive interview on three separate stops along the way.

Consequently, the network coverage of this trip will be of "rock star" quality. And certainly, there is no balance when it comes to coverage of John McCain's numerous trips abroad, or for that matter, no true balance throughout this long campaign of press coverage between the new kid on the block -- Barack Obama -- and anyone else, including, of course, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

My friends, as John McCain would say, the "new kid" in political campaigns always gets the spotlight, particularly this one who could become the first African-American president in our nation's history. But that is not always an advantage.

So, let us withhold our righteous outrage over "quantity" until we see what happens to the "quality" of reporting here.

Obama will have a big spotlight on him, and my guess is the three anchors, not only because they are true professionals but because they understand their coverage will come under extraordinary scrutiny, will play it absolutely straight, and they and their broadcasts will lean over backward to cover Obama with a hard-nosed objective lens.

Do not be surprised if Obama's most fervent fans complain about the questions the anchors press on their hero -- do not be surprised if each broadcast highlights his critics' complaints that he is naïve and inexperienced when it comes to foreign affairs.

There was a cartoon during the primary campaign that showed Obama being pushed off the bow of a boat named "media hysteria" -- the cartoon bubble over the gaggle of reporters watching from the stern read "Look! Barack Obama is getting ready to walk on the water!"

I don't think that will be the case on this trip. In fact, I bet he'll be walking through a journalistic minefield. If he comes out looking good, that will be because he's earned it, not because the three anchors and their broadcasts will have given him a pass.

Sam Donaldson, a 41-year ABC News veteran, served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News, from January 1998 to August 1999, and from 1977-1989, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Donaldson also co-anchored, with Diane Sawyer, "PrimeTime Live" from August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. He co-anchored the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast, "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts," from December 1996 to September 2002. Currently, Sam Donaldson appears on ABC News Now, the ABC News digital network, in a daily show, "Politics Live."

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