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July 26, 2008

The Trip: When Obama Became Acting President


“We have one president at a time,” Mr. Obama is careful to say. True, but the sitting president, a lame duck despised by voters and shunned by his own party’s candidates, now has all the gravitas of Mr. Cellophane in “Chicago.” The opening for a successor arrived prematurely, and the vacuum had been waiting to be filled. What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

How Obama Became Acting President (Frank Rich/NYT – 7/26/08)

Somehow, this pic from last Monday slipped by me.  I just caught it this evening in a WAPO grand tour of “The Trip.”

Frank Rich is dead on regarding the vacuum.  Obama’s clear point, on heading out, was that he was embarking on a “listening tour,” and practically every image from the Iraq leg backs that up.  In spite of the fact, however, it takes little-to-nothing to imagine this scene actually taking place in February ’09, with the C.I.C. parked in the center of the action, Vice President Hagel fighting a little jet lag and Secretary of State Reed telling Petraeus (and the about-to-be furloughed Mr. Crocker) how it’s going to be.

I’m not making any personnel predictions, by the way, or assuming the actual circumstances here involve anything other than a conversation.  The dynamics of the pic, however, speak to how powerful the trip was in visualizing Obama in the Oval Office, and just how much the intellectual and policy authority is shifting, as well.

(image: U.S. Army-Getty Images.  Baghdad. July 21, 2008.  From: WAPO’s “Obama’s International Tour” slide show)

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