Trips Abroad Pull Focus to Foreign Policy

NYT FD6/8/2015

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Good Monday morning from Washington. The Republican candidates have a busy week lined up, and the Iowa caucuses have added some technology to their traditions. But the week begins with President Obama in Europe, a Bush heading there and the politics of foreign affairs taking a step into the spotlight.

Foreign policy, which has factored heavily in Republican stump speeches so far, will be center stage this week from Europe to the campaigns.

Mr. Obama is in Germany on Monday for the Group of 7 summit meeting, where he will meet with German officials and representatives from Canada, France, Italy and Japan, to discuss maintaining the economic sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

Mr. Obama will also meet with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, to discuss terrorism and the growing threat of the Islamic State.

Then on Tuesday, Jeb Bush, the brother and the son of former presidents, will visit Berlin, in his first major overseas trip as an all-but-declared presidential candidate.

For Mr. Bush, it has been a difficult couple of months over foreign policy, as he conceded privately that the rollout of a large list of foreign policy advisers had been botched and as he seemed loath to criticize George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

His Europe trip is a chance to reset ahead of his anticipated campaign kickoff rally on June 15. But it also highlights how foreign policy has dominated the Republican side of the discussion, while Democrats have focused on domestic issues.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has said little about foreign affairs, focusing instead on sweeping proposals like policing overhaul, voting rights and expanding Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration rights.

As Ross Douthat wrote on Sunday, Mrs. Clinton has deprived critics on the left of oxygen as she’s assumed positions popular among the general electorate. It also means that, on foreign policy, Mrs. Clinton is leaving the most ground for Republicans to draw a clear contrast with her and to tether her to Mr. Obama.