Sen. Barack Obama’s first overseas trip as a presidential candidate is shaping up to be a mob-scene of press coverage.
Obama will be traveling with a plane full of journalists, and at least 200 have applied to come on the trip, though only about 40 will be able to go. The big names will be along for the ride too: top newspaper reporters and network nightly news anchors Brian William, Charles Gibson and Katie Couric.
It’s a stark contrast from Sen. John McCain’s trip to the Middle East in March, which received only modest coverage. McCain did not invite reporters along with him on that trip.
Obama’s campaign has announced visits to Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and England. They have not said publicly whether Obama will go to Iraq and Afghanistan on this trip, but he is expected to.
McCain has criticized Obama for never having been on the ground in Iraq to see the progress there, and even offered to take him several times earlier this year.
McCain’s communications director Jill Hazelbaker criticized Obama’s motives for the trip on Fox News Thursday morning.
“Let’s drop the pretense that this is a fact-finding trip and call it what it is: the first-of-its-kind campaign rally overseas,” Hazelbaker said.
Her quote was later mailed out to campaign list-serve members.
Later in the day, Sen. John McCain told reporters “The fact is I’m glad that he’s going to Iraq. I’m glad that he’s going to Afghanistan. It’s long, long overdue if you want to lead this nation and secure our national security.”
The McCain camp and other conservatives have also taken issue with the distribution of press coverage between the two candidates.
The Tyndall Report, which monitors network news coverage said the networks spent 114 minutes covering Obama since June, and 48 minutes covering McCain.
“The press may or may not have a bias in favor of Obama but it definitely has a bias in favor of being with the frontrunner at a particular moment in time,” the Washington Post’ Dana Milbank told MSNBC. Milbank said Obama’s historic candidacy and the enthusiasm around his campaign contributes to the media attention.
“There is a perception right or wrong right now in the media that Obama is in a very solid position so the network anchors believe they are heading overseas with the next president,” Milbank said.