Most everyone is having a field day criticizing President Bush for his just-completed 12-day trip to Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
The critics claim he came back "empty-handed," that he appeared to be begging and that he invited a group of top, highly paid business executives to join him on the trip when he should have included some blue-collar types who work for hourly wages. His political opponents said the trip was designed primarily to win votes for the upcoming presidential election rather than for any genuine concern or appreciation about the trade imbalance and loss of jobs.
Realistically, is there any way Bush could have returned to the U.S. as a big winner in the eyes of his critics? His critics claim all he got were "promises" not "jobs."
The fact is the Japanese are not going to change their national policy overnight or just because a U.S. president and a group of business executives come calling.
It would seem there are a number of positives coming out of the trip:
It forced the president to focus his attention and that of his aides on the foreign trade situation.
Due to the high visibility of the trip and the importance placed on it by the president, the leaders of these four nations both governmental and business now know Bush is going to do everything within reason to establish an open and fair trade policy among Pacific Rim nations and the U.S.
Millions more Americans now have a better appreciation of the challenges faced by American businesses who are trying to develop markets in Japan and the numerous advantageous relationships between Japanese business and the government.
Business executives accompanying Bush had the advantage of being part of a presidential party which undoubtedly helped them open doors and have discussions with more senior business leaders in those countries on the president's itinerary.
Although Bush is criticized for coming back only with "promises," not "jobs," chances are there wouldn't even be promises if he hadn't made the trip.
Bush certainly wants to win re-election for another four years in the White House, but at this time, isn't it reasonable or at least fair to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe he thought the trip was worth the effort, and criticism, rather than to remain in Washington and do nothing, aside from talk about the problem?
He was bound to be criticized if he did nothing and faulted if he made the trip and came back, in the eyes of his critics, empty-handed. Realistically, there wasn't much chance to return to Washington as a big winner, because the Japanese could not be expected to suddenly stop their very favorable business practices and governmental policies.
Also, even though government leaders in Japan may have appeared to rebuke the president, or a least publicly not agree to change their policies, it seems reasonable to believe they may be prepared to make changes within a short time. By delaying such action for a reasonable period, they can avoid appearing to have caved in to pressures from Uncle Sam.
There's a good chance many positive spin-offs of the trip could surface in the months to come and that the Pacific Rim trip will have been well worth the efforts and the criticism.