Good for first lady Michelle Obama. Given that President Obama has failed to connect with a single foreign leader that I know of and has not done anything to enhance his or America’s standing in the world since he took office, sending Michelle Obama to have a friendly encounter with the Chinese was as good a move as any the administration could make. The Chinese appreciate gestures and personal engagement. And let’s face it, given our current strained relationship with Russia, the disconnect this president has caused with our traditional allies, our eroded credibility in the Middle East, and Japan’s and Korea’s doubts about America’s resolve, we could use more — not less — outreach to key players around the world. And China is a good place to start.
To get an idea of where the administration’s foreign policy has left us and the choices that the White House now faces in deciding its course, read Fred Hiatt’s wise piece in today’s Post. In the last two weeks, I traveled to Kiev, Moscow, Bangkok and Dubai (not an unusual loop for me). I saw firsthand how America’s retreat is rattling the world. To pretend it’s not happening is dangerous.
Critics who are harping on about the so-called cost of Michelle Obama’s trip should put a sock in it. We should be thinking of new ways to improve relations and increase our visibility in China and elsewhere, even if it means we need to spend some money. It is an urgent priority. I’m glad my first lady and the first kids are representing us in China. America is on the back foot and we need to pull out all the stops. Where is Michelle Obama going next? Wherever it is, I hope she gets there soon.
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