Time Mag's Brief history of presidents abroad





For his first major overseas trip as president, Barack Obama has a G-20 meeting, a NATO summit and a roundtable discussion in a Muslim country on the itinerary. But at a morning briefing the day before his departure — as reporters focused on the ouster of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner — Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn't field a single question about the President's trip. It was a sign of how ubiquitous and rote presidential foreign travel has become.

Think back to when a President could dominate the news by simply leaving the country and posing for some photo ops. Maybe he'd even sneak in some history-making diplomatic feats. Exhibit A: Richard Nixon. He's remembered for his 1972 trip to China almost as much as he is for Watergate. And while it's conceivable that relations with the Communist country could have been normalized without a face-to-face meeting between Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong, news photos of the two leaders shaking hands — not to mention images of Nixon walking the Great Wall and eating with chopsticks — helped convince Americans that Red China was not to be feared.

Nixon was the first U.S. president to visit the Asian nation and the jaunt, which came smack in the midst of the Cold War, was a huge boon for the President's public image. The trip ended with the Shanghai Communique, a joint statement from China and the U.S. that pledged to improve relations between the countries and maintained that Taiwan was part of China, a diplomatic sticking point. At the close of the journey, Nixon crowed, "This was the week that changed the world." (See TIME's 1972 Cover Story "Richard Nixon's Long March to Shanghai")


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