George W. Bush, Traveling Man?
It is true that George W. Bush had limited foreign travel experience before becoming president, but it is a myth that he had never been outside the United States.
Obama may have confused Bush with former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), who said in July 1998 that he wasn't much interested in foreign travel. "I've been to Europe once," Armey told reporters. "I don't need to go again."
Bush was certainly not an avid foreign traveler before his election as president, but he had made at least brief trips to many parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Reached yesterday at the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, longtime press aide Gordon D. Johndroe provided the following list of countries visited by Bush before 2001, "off the top of my head."
China (in the 1970s, when George H.W. Bush was the U.S. representative).
Johndroe evidently forgot the West African nation of Gambia, which the younger Bush visited in 1990 representing his father at Independence Day celebrations. He made several trips to Mexico as governor of Texas, and visited Britain with the Young Presidents' Organization, a group of corporate executives.
Bush's first experience of the Middle East came in 1998, as he was considering a run for the presidency. After visiting his daughter in Italy (Johndroe also forgot about that trip), he joined a group of other governors in Cairo, where they met Hosni Mubarak. The group then traveled to Israel, where Bush toured the West Bank in the company of Ariel Sharon, the father of the Jewish settlement policy. Not quite the same as traveling by bus around Kenya and Indonesia -- as Obama did in his formative years -- but a far cry from the caricature offered by the senator from Illinois.
THE PINOCCHIO TEST
It is unclear what Obama was thinking about when he made these remarks. His spokesman, Bill Burton, e-mailed me this comment: "Zzzzzzz." That may be the case, but it is hardly the way to win the heart of the Fact Checker. Four Pinocchios.
ONE PINOCCHIO: Some shading of the facts; TWO PINOCCHIOS: Significant omissions or exaggerations; THREE PINOCCHIOS: Significant factual errors; FOUR PINOCCHIOS: Real whoppers; THE GEPPETTO CHECK MARK: Statements and claims contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.