Frequent Fox News guest and former Bush staffer Brad Blakeman mischaracterized President Obama's upcoming visit to Africa, calling it a "vacation" and ignoring the diplomatic and economic priorities of the trip.
On the June 24 edition of Fox News' America Live, Megyn Kelly hosted Brad Blakeman, former Deputy Assistant for Appointments and Scheduling under President George W. Bush, and Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky to discuss President Obama's upcoming visit to Africa. Roginsky reiterated during the segment that Obama's trip is an "investment opportunity," and an effort to stimulate business for American investors. Blakeman argued with Roginsky, calling the visit "a vacation in the guise of a trade investment mission":
But, as Stephen Hayes at US News & World Report's blog pointed out, the president's trip will focus on increasing "U.S. investment in and trade with Africa." Hayes noted that the trip will focus on areas of Africa that have been previously overlooked, but now have opportunities to grow economically and partner with U.S. businesses:
While the trip will be educational for the President's two daughters, there is a great deal of business to be done by the administration and the president himself. Among the themes for this trip is the need to increase U.S. investment in and trade with Africa. The president has chosen Tanzania as the site for his principal address on this theme.
In Tanzania, the president will have a closed meeting with about 25 carefully selected American and African CEOs. Following this meeting he is expected to deliver a major address on U.S. business in Africa to a larger group of East African business leaders, including a sizable contingent from Kenya, as well as the other East African Community countries.
The president's words will set the tone for our future with the East Africa Community. It will be the most significant statement to Africa made by a U.S. President in East Africa. We can hope that it will form a solid foundation for our future with the region.
The AP's Julie Pace agreed, writing: "Obama's upcoming weeklong trip to Africa will mark his most significant personal investment in the developing region since taking office." But she also explained that the trip provides an opportunity for the United States to increase its economic competitiveness with other nations that are investing in Africa, including China:
The White House is hoping the return on that investment will be an increased foothold for U.S. businesses on a continent where China and other emerging economies are already major players.
While Obama has devoted significant time to emerging economies in Asia and Latin America, he's spent just one day in sub-Saharan Africa since taking office - a 24-hour visit to Ghana in 2009. Meanwhile, countries like China, Malaysia, Brazil and Turkey have been upping their investments in Africa.
"There are other countries getting in the game," [Obama's deputy national security adviser Ben] Rhodes said. "If the United States is not leading in Africa, we're going to fall behind in a very important region in the world."
China in particular has poured significant resources into the region in recent years. Official figures from Beijing put China's trade with Africa at nearly $200 billion last year, up from $10 billion in 2000. The rapid increase has been driven largely by Chinese demand for oil and investments in infrastructure, including telecommunications grids.