In his first trip abroad, President Obama visited Canada Thursday, said Karim Bardeesy in Slate, following a tradition “upset by George W. Bush,” who stung Canadians by traveling first to Mexico. Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked about the three topics important to Canadians—trade, Afghanistan, and energy/climate change—but the trip will be judged by whether or not they forged “a good personal working relationship.”
By that measure, Obama’s visit was a success, said Don Martin in Canada’s National Post. Even though Harper is a Conservative, his “words and body language” suggested a preference for Obama over Bush. Policy-wise, the visit was an “irritant-avoidance exercise,” and the two men downplayed any disagreements on NAFTA and a U.S. “buy American” stimulus clause.
Instead of having to assure the Canadians that the “buy American” provision doesn’t mean “don’t buy Canadian,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial, Obama's time would be better spent telling his fellow Democrats that protectionism will make both of our bad economies worse.
Americans tend to forget that Canada is our largest and most integrated trading partner, said Matthew Yglesias in Think Progress. In fact, Canada is our single “most important bilateral relationship,” which is why it was “pretty sorry stuff” for Bush to visit Mexico first. A “day-trip to Ottawa” is the least a new president can do.
And this president “had us at ‘merci,’” said Gloria Galloway and Josh Wingrove in Canada’s Globe and Mail. Despite an initial faux pas—when Obama said it was a great pleasure to be “in Iowa, er, Ottawa”—the “whole nation seemed weak in the knees” after his visit.