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Obama defends his globe trotting

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Democratic candidate Barack Obama returned to a tight U.S. presidential campaign on Sunday and defended his weeklong globe trotting, saying “we did it really well.”

“In terms of me governing, being an effective president, that trip was helpful,” Obama said. “I’ve established relationships and a certain bond of trust with key leaders around the world who have taken measure of my positions and how I operate and I think can come away with some confidence that this is somebody I can deal with.”

Speaking to a gathering of minority journalists, Obama denied the trip was “audacious” and said he met mostly with the same leaders his rival John McCain met with after he clinched the Republican nomination.

Obama was turning his attention to domestic affairs after a trip that took him to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe, where he met with world leaders, visited U.S. troops and spoke to a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin.

“A week of me focusing on international issues doesn’t necessarily translate into higher poll numbers here in the United States because people are understandably concerned about the immediate effects of the economy,” he said. “And that’s what we will be talking about for the duration.”

As the Illinois senator was switching emphasis, his rival in the November election was keeping up his attack on Obama’s position on Iraq.

McCain, in an interview broadcast on ABC’s “This Week,” said Obama called for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq over a 16-month period to win the Democratic nomination.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) smiles as he leaves 10 Downing Street in central London July 26, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico


“Senator Obama doesn’t understand,” McCain said in an interview held on Saturday. “He doesn’t understand what’s at stake here and he chose to take a political path that would have helped him get the nomination of his party.”

But McCain said he was not questioning the patriotism of his opponent, just his judgment.

Obama defended his call for troop withdrawal, saying it should have begun earlier, and the real lack of judgment was McCain’s vote for the war in the first place.

“I continue to believe that the only way for us to stabilize the situation in Iraq -- I believed it then, and I believe it now -- is for the parties to arrive at a set of political accommodations,” he told the journalists.

McCain also sought to turn Obama’s trip against him, suggesting it was a slight to U.S. voters.

“With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to ‘the people of the world,’ I’m starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too,” the Arizona senator said in a Saturday radio address.

Obama responded by telling journalists, “I was puzzled by this notion that somehow what we were doing was in any way different from what Senator McCain or a lot of presidential candidates have done in the past. Now, I admit we did it really well.”

Obama planned to meet on Monday with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, billionaire investor Warren Buffet and others to discuss the issue.

“This will be a first step in a series of meetings and proposals that we’ll be presenting during the remainder of this campaign,” Obama said in an interview with Reuters on his way back to his home in Chicago.

The presumptive Democratic nominee also gave a vote of confidence to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke without saying whether he would reappoint him if elected president.

“I think that Chairman Bernanke was handed a pretty tough hand and I think some of the decisions he’s made have been the right ones,” he said in the interview on Saturday evening.

Writing by David Wiessler; additional reporting by Caren Bohan; editing by Bill Trott