We got a chain e-mail recently that purports to list 90 accomplishments from President Barack Obama's first six months in office.
Unlike most chain e-mails we check out, this one was signed by its author, Robert Watson, a professor of American Studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Watson said he spoke last spring at some Democratic political clubs and was asked by some members to compile the list as talking points to balance some of the claims about the Obama administration coming from Republicans. The list has since gone viral, and now Watson fields several calls and e-mails every day challenging some of the entries.
We decided to look into a handful of items on the list to see if they check out.
Here, we look at No. 34, that Obama has "visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office."
In the first six calendar months of his presidency, Obama did far more international travel than his previous five predecessors, according to an analysis by Brendan Doherty, an assistant professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy, for the White House Transition Project. In all, the study found, Obama traveled to 13 countries in his first six months in office. That's far more than George W. Bush, seven in 2001; Bill Clinton, one in 1993; George H.W. Bush, nine in 1989; Ronald Reagan, one in 1981; and Jimmy Carter, two in 1977.
Obama has also met with more heads of state. According to Doherty's analysis, seven of Obama’s 13 stops were bilateral visits with the head of state of another country; while 15 of the 20 journeys made by Obama's five predecessors combined were bilateral meetings with other heads of state.
"Examination of the first six months of President Barack Obama’s international and domestic travel reveals an active chief executive," Doherty concluded. "His record-setting pace of travel abroad reflects the many international challenges facing the United States at the beginning of his administration."
The U.S. Department of State posts historical data on presidential travel abroad, which allowed us to look back even further, to the 13 presidents before Carter, all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt. None come even close to Obama's international travel record for the first six months.
According to a Nov. 11, 2009 story by CBS News' Mark Knoller, who keeps meticulous records on presidential travel, Obama has traveled abroad more in his first year in office than any other president in history, and the year isn't even finished yet. According to Knoller's story, "Foreign travel by American presidents is a relatively new practice. No sitting U.S. president left the country until Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. He made a single foreign outing: a three-day visit to Panama in November of that year to inspect construction of the Panama Canal."
Including his most recent Asia trip, Knoller notes that Obama has taken eight foreign trips to 20 countries.
Make what you will of Obama's globe-trotting, Watson's e-mail is correct that Obama has visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office. We rate it True.