THE BLOG

Obama: Stay Home and Focus on the Struggling U.S. Economy: Europe Will Always Be There

07/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Both presidential candidates seem to be missing the fact that the American voter is scared, angry and apprehensive about our troubled economy.

Both campaigns keep talking about foreign affairs when the American voter is looking for a competent person to get a handle on the economy and tell us that he has an answer for all our ills, from the mortgage crisis to the lack of an energy policy to the falling stock market.

Obama and McCain have failed to convince the American voter that each has a plan that can help put the economy back on track.

When people are worried about losing their jobs, losing their homes and losing the value in their pension plans the last thing they are thinking about is how the transatlantic alliance is going or what is the future of NATO.

As my colleague Andrew Ward wrote in the Financial Times today, "McCain and Obama Look Overseas While Investors Panic."

As Ward states, "On the campaign trail, however, the presidential candidates have said little about the crisis beyond broadly supportive comments about government efforts to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the ailing mortgage companies. Instead they have spent the week arguing about US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan."

While investors are standing in line for hours to recover their money from the failed IndyMac Bank, they really do not care or worry about whether or not Obama should give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate or some other symbolic location in Berlin.

I find both campaigns to be totally out of sync with what is happening to the American economy. It is odd that they both seem deaf to what is happening right before their eyes.

Instead of debating whether or not to speak at the Brandenburg Gate and causing unnecessary controversy with one of our allies, Obama should be speaking at the gates of a General Motors plant in Michigan on how we need to keep jobs alive in the U.S. auto industry.

I have been involved in transatlantic relations for more than 20 years, working for the European Union as editor of their magazine, serving as editor at Johns Hopkins of a magazine called TransAtlantic and teaching in Italy last summer. And I feel very strongly that this is not the time for Obama to be traveling to Europe. The American economy, as one of my students at Johns Hopkins said, is "beyond terrible," and both presidential candidates need to focus on our massive economic problems which are not going away any time soon.

Obama's trip to Europe at this time seems inappropriate. Europe will always be there and there will be time for him to meet foreign leaders if and when he becomes our next president.
Right now people in the U.S. are afraid every day about the next economic disaster that may hit us.

Neither presidential candidate seems to have the necessary background in economics, business or finance to lead us to a brighter economic future. Neither has really been in the private sector.
Instead of looking for vice-presidential candidates who have a national security background, Obama and McCain need to focus instead on a VP who knows something about business and economics.

What about Bill Gates for VP? He just left his job and probably doesn't need the money, but he might be a good choice for Obama or McCain. He certainly knows how to run a business and do it well.

Of course, Gates is probably not going to be VP, but both candidates should be looking for people like the Microsoft founder who have a background in business and economics for their running mates.

It is inconceivable to me how out of touch both presidential candidates are to the economic crisis facing the United States.

It is really unbelievable that they don't remember the winning Bill Clinton campaign in 1992: "It's the economy, stupid."

Where are the innovative, thoughtful plans on restructuring our system instead of both candidates half-heartedly approving the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government would certainly not be bailing out most small businesses if they failed and were poorly managed.

When voters are worried on a daily basis about keeping their jobs and their homes and are seeing our entire economic system looking bleak, it really is no advantage to a candidate to travel overseas at a time of economic crisis at home.

Senator Obama, postpone your European trip and get serious about an innovative approach to get us out of our economic crisis which seems to get worse hour by hour.

Europe will still be there if and when you make it to the White House. Europe's leaders can wait to meet you -- our economy can't wait to be fixed.