Sticking with tradition, Barack Obama recently announced that his first foreign trip as president will be to Canada. Most US presidents choose our neighbor to the north for their first international jaunt aboard Air Force One (George W. Bush was a notably exception: He chose Mexico for his first foreign visit).
By most accounts, Barack Obama has a decidedly more global outlook than his predecessor — a result, in part, from an international background and upbringing. One of the questions of Obama’s first term will be just how much he intends to directly engage with the wider world.
One way to measure that is in the amount of foreign travel he’ll do during his time as president.
Most assume Bush rarely traveled beyond the borders of the US during his eight years in office (most also believe, wrongly, that Bush never visited Europe before he was president).
But in reality he did: USA Today says Bush made 47 foreign trips during his presidency, and visited more than 70 countries, some more than once (and around 15 in 2008 alone).
How does Bush stack up against past presidents? It’s hard to say, given that USA Today does not break the trips down into state visits; often a single trip could include several state visits, or individual touch-downs in foreign countries. The State Department, which keeps tracks of such things, will no doubt one day release all of Bush’s foreign visits. But for now, it suffices to say that the younger Bush still trails Ronald Reagan, his own father and the king of presidential travel, Bill Clinton, in the number of stamps marking his diplomatic passport.
Clinton is easily the biggest traveler of the last 10 presidents. He logged in 133 state visits during 54 trips to 74 countries during his eight years in office, spending an average of nearly 30 days overseas a year. Bush Senior comes in second with 60 state visits. Reagan, 49.
The Bush Senior stat is interesting, given that he had only four years in office.
Presidents like Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter logged 42 and 31 foreign state visits, respectively. Dwight Eisenhower, the last two-term president before Reagan, made 37.
Of course, just how much Obama intends to travel remains to be seen. But it’s a good bet that if he intends, to paraphrase his words, to repair America’s image abroad, then it’s a good bet that Air Force One will be fueled up and at the ready.