International Engagement: A High Cost in Domestic “Optics”?

by Elise Crane

Frank Rich’s November 6th New York Times column ( … ef=general) deplored President Obama’s trip to India as a tremendous domestic PR failure in the wake of his midterm “shellacking”. Rich painted the president as either oblivious—or indifferent—to the “optics” of his decision to visit the very country that, due to outsourcing, many see as the cause of their own unemployment.

But what would it say about our president if he didn’t visit India, which will undoubtedly play a significant role in 21st century politics, economics, and security issues? By visiting India—and by supporting its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, not to mention by paying homage to its culture with his Bollywood dancing genius ( … 102983.php) —President Obama displayed his sensitivity to global political realities.

This “sensitivity” may be perceived as indifference to certain domestic constituencies and may indeed make Obama a one-term president. But despite the many disappointments since November 4, 2008, I am proud to call this man my president and think Frank Rich’s directive for Obama to “phone home” represents navel-gazing of the worst kind. While domestic issues are surely pressing, in a globalized world of infinite interconnectivity and endless ripple effects, we cannot afford to elevate “optics” above the imperative to engage beyond our borders.

The “Draft” QDDR Released