So we can see from this morning’s This Week that David Axelrod is not a good television surrogate, and we are reminded again that Obama has failed over the course of the last year to hold any hearings with respect to NATO support for the war in Afghanistan in his capacity as Chairman of the Subcommittee on European Affairs.  Indeed, during his chairmanship the subcommittee has not held any policy hearings.  Obama supporters fans usually dismiss this as trivia, but it goes directly to his credibility as an advocate of greater U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, which he just reiterated this week, because it is through his subcommittee that the Foreign Relations Committee gathers important information about European governments and NATO.  These are obviously critical to the Afghanistan mission. 

As someone who has been in an official position, albeit only for a year, to draw attention to NATO’s limited support for the Afghanistan mission and to show some leadership in his role as Senator, he has not done so.  The response will be: “Well, okay, but he was running for President!  He can’t be in two places at the same time!”  Well, exactly.  In a three-year U.S. Senate career he has been part of the majority for just over one, and in that year he has done literally nothing about a policy whose importance he is supposed to rate very highly because he has been too busy working for a promotion that would allow him to wield far greater power.  Further, if Obama is running on his superior judgement, what does it say about his judgement that he considered campaigning throughout 2007 more pressing and important than doing the work his constituents elected him to do?   

As Conason’s December piece in Slate said:

Ritch points out that as subcommittee chair, Obama could have examined a wide variety of urgent matters, from the role of NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq to European energy policy and European responses to climate change — and of course, the undermining of the foundations of the Atlantic alliance by the Bush administration. There is, indeed, almost no issue of current global interest that would have fallen outside the subcommittee’s purview.      

Also, for someone whose subcommittee oversaw European affairs, it is remarkable that he has apparently not been to Europe very often and certainly not since taking over his chairmanship.  Obama and his backers like to talk about his biography as the source of a different perspective on foreign relations, but what can it say about his practical foreign policy experience that in the time he has been on the Foreign Relations Committee he has not actually visited the region whose relationship with the U.S. was his responsibility to oversee?  The neglect of Europe is not limited to Obama’s time in the Senate, but can also be seen in the absence of any statements on Europe, NATO or Russia in his formal campaign literature or in his foreign policy addresses, except insofar as it relates to his nonproliferation agenda.  It is particularly in light of his relative lack of interest in European affairs that makes his loose talk about “obligations” to Kosovo sound all the more disturbing.