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Jul 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)


I hate to be the one to tell you this, but not only did I grow up in Germany - I was stationed there as an adult for many years, and Germans show up in large crowds very easy for alot of things. Germans have always loved Americans even these last 8 years because they are not a stupid people. They, like most of Europe know it is always the Governments that are bad and not the people. If our media showed more of what is going on in Europe evreyday instead of talking about Britney et al - our "children" would also have seen huge crowds turn out for not only the Hasselhoff, but some of our soap opera stars, the late Steve Barton of Phantom of the Opera, Ethan Freeman and more.

200k is also quite less than what would show up for a festival, and believe me they have quite a few festivals a year.

Obamas "money" would have been better spent here doing the pretty speeches in our "57" states especially WV,KY, and OH so Americans can get to decide if they want another President who can give a great speeches with the aide of a teleprompter.

I'm looking forward to being able to talk about politics in a civil way. We used to be able to do that before the Republicans took power. What a relief to present different viewpoints without being called nasty names. The worst part of it is the vacuum that was created in the absence of reasoned discourse. Bush just went ahead and did things. If you even so much as questioned the wisdom of his notions, any number of people would impugn your courage, your loyalty, your intelligence. This was the period of time in which Rush Limbaugh signed a contract guaranteeing him $400 million over the next 15 years.

John McCain doesn't seem to get why people are so frustrated with the Republicans. Instead of being truly his own man, he says the kinds of things you'd expect Bill O'Reilly to say. For instance, McCain said that Obama would rather lose a war than lose the presidency. Frankly, I'm fed up with that kind of talk. I'd just as soon run all these people out of town. Somebody recently said that it's great to see the U.S. back on line. I couldn't agree more! This is a powerful country, and I'm proud to be an American. But that dreadful stuff we get from George Will, George Bush, Brit Hume and the rest of them, I find it disgusting. Apparently a bunch of other people do, too - especially the rest of the world.

I love this picture. These people are sharing ideas about how to go about achieving goals they have in common. Their faces don't show any inclination to substitute insult for reasoned argument. This isn't a new development in American history, it's the way we did things until the right wingers came to power. They're not gone yet, but happier days are coming, can you feel it?

E2 - 200K+ people show up to a hear a US Senator speak in a foreign country, not protest, but to actually listen and you want to minimize this? Really? You have enjoyed the protests that follow the current occupant and his team? Ridiculous and sad.

We can only hope that this image bears any resemblance to our future reality.

Just the fact that Mr. McCain still is running only a couple points behind Mr. Obama belies our hope.

The kind of change that thinking people can see in the next ten years (especially the negative change so clearly coming to our standard of living and to our national physical safety) terrifies at least 50% of those who will elect the next president of our nation.

Meanwhile the possibility that Mr. Obama will drag our heads out of the sand and turn our faces towards minimizing the impact of those changes gets smaller and smaller the more time he spends with people like these.

Frank Rich might have been mindful to report that while the general ethos has been to have, 'one president at a time', history writing over the next decade may well inform us that this was an acutely bi-polar presidency.

Staffed by several peoples and personalities.

There was a titular head who has become a lame-duck precedent and their is an ongoing oligarch who lamed as he duck'd. Et tu cheney?

One of the many themes that may well be returned to focrefully on Obama's return. Who is to be the next VP?

The trip accomplished everything it needed to in terms of image. As Rich points out, McCain should be grateful that it provided a distraction from his bumbling campaign.

The substantive value of the trip is difficult to gauge, but shouldn't be dismissed. Obama has demonstrated that he can assimilate information and ascend a learning curve much faster than most people. If he is elected president, every conversation he has had with military leaders and heads of state (such as King Abdullah II of Jordan) will contribute to his knowledge base and help him make educated decisions. What a refreshing change that would be.

Ti molo,

You want to "maximize" this? I prefer not to "spin" something into something it isn't, but, hey, that's just me. I prefer facts so I can make up my own mind on what something is and something isn't. The protests with flag burning yada yada was happening here too, remember? Americans (real one's) were protesting our government also and NOT it's people.

Why don't you start visiting German news sites - they usually have an ENGLISH version link on them and just learn for yourself all about what is happening in Germany everyday from top news storys to their entertainment news. Germany/Austria equivalent of our Broadway is very famous in Europe for their musicals. That's just one example. They enjoy life to the fullest and you would learn alot. You can learn alot if you want to by NOT beleiving what are media reports all the time so blindly.

As for my take on Obama. I think Obama supporters (the most vocal ones)should stop trying to pick the President as they would when they vote in AMERICAN IDOL. Obama is the LEAST experienced person for this important job. At the very least, I would like one that knows there are only 50 states, the most a presidential term could be is 8 years, and one that is not afraid to debate on National TV. But then again - that's just me.


We know who won't be VP -

Yes, he looks wonderful. But let's learn from the Edwards case that we cannot judge the reality only by pictures. He LOOKS presidential -- so what?

I like it best when comments focus on the images--what this blog is about. Still, Martin is right. Obviously Cheney operates in complete independence, except when he's playing puppet-master to Bush; and Rove has been referred to frequently (and with apparent justice) as "Bush's Brain." So right from the get-go it's been pretty hard to tell who the "real" president/s of our nation has/have been.

But re the image: This is a picture of a guy who is listening while someone else talks, but who at the same time dominates the room. He's in the center. Every communication has to go past/through him. His white shirt makes him "pop" visually.

Just for fun I'm going to play with Photoshop to see if I can make it happen. But I can't imagine how any kind of manipulation could make McCain (or Bush!) seem this much in comfortable, non-aggressive command of a discussion.

E2--I've lived in Germany for several years myself. What happened as per Obama in Berlin was extraordinary. Contrast with George Bush's visit, in which the entire town of Mainz was shut down for three days and my brother in law was told not to go out on his balcony. All because the Secret Service in charge of the Bush motorcade was so afraid of protests and angry crowds that they didn't want to see anybody. I doubt seriously if George Bush could show his face in Berlin, that's why they were always ferrying him away to meet Merkel in the smaller towns, i.e. Mainz, and another little resort town whose name I don't remember.

The difference between Obama in Germany and Bush in Germany is the difference between night and day, black and white, or anything else you can think of. Total, just total. Just because a lot of people show up for the Love Parade too does not alter the magnitude of Obama's accomplishment one whit. Grow up, please.

Tina, Look what I just saw on another site....BTW I spent a total of 17 years in Germany - how about you?

"While coverage of Senator Obama's Berlin speech provided audiences here at home nothing less that a visual "shock and awe," it neglected to mention that the well-hyped speech had an opening act: a gratis concert by two wildly popular groups, Reggae artist Patrice and rock band Reamonn.

While we appreciate the Obama Campaign's hospitality, on behalf of furthering US international relations, offering free bratwurst, pizza and even beer for three hours during the free rock concert, we question whether or not the monies might have been better spent here on financially strapped US citizens. Furthermore the Just Say No Deal Coalition identifies this pattern as deceptive to media consumers.

For those folks who want to know what Germans really thought about Obama (good and bad) here is Der Speigels English version and you can check out all the links about him and find out what the Germans and their press are saying for yourself.

Der Spiegel represents what Germans think the way Time and Newsweek represent what Americans think.

As for the rock concert argument, the nay-sayers tried that in Portland with only 75K people. Nobody left after the concert there, and the photos seem to imply that nobody left after the concert in front of the Siegessäule either.

While, according to a guest on Diane Rehm on Friday, quite a few of the people in Berlin came out for the pleasant day and to be part of the scene, apparently the ones lining the street to the Brandenburger Tor were mostly there for Mr. Obama as well as the musical racket.

I've not seen much comment on the "American nationals overseas" aspect of this rally. Anyone have any ideas on what the number of possible voters that might have been out of the 200K. Is it 10K, 20K?

This WAPO set certainly gives BHO many opportunities to make a dark suit, white shirt, and tie look good (and vice versa). There's not an unkind image in the bunch: apparently the Post's photo editors believe in the maxim "Show the best and burn the rest."

When the joyful masses start cheering a smiling Presidential candidate is when we should start worrying: there's too much of a risk he'll start listening. The old Romans may have had it right — perhaps we should revive the custom on Pennsylvania Avenue. Most of the applause for Obama's image tour is coming from a long ways offshore: will it be loud enough Stateside for anyone to hear it?

Ready smiles, free promises, and much hope abounds as usual before Election Day, but the winner — and the reality of what can actually be delivered — can only be determined afterwards. Until the results of that day in the USA, favorable fifth estate pieces aren't worth much: don't forget Dewey Defeats Truman.

E2, I really disagree. I live overseas now. (not before) and the last 7 years have been brutal out here. It was important for Obama to take a listening tour, be out in the world, and the image as real leader will make a difference at home.

Then this week he can come back and do domestic, economic talks and campaign in the home states.

It is not all or nothing. This candidate has shown that he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

FYI, from Wikipedia:

An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial and usually irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.[2]

I like how this picture shows, wether real or not, that Obama listens, considers, and learns from others. Opposite of what we have in office now. Genuine or not, his image to the public is just what we need at this point.

Obama's popularity is in fact irrelevant. He has no need of popularity. He can surf America's revulsion and disgust into the white house.

Most of what I get from the MSM is that any triumph by Sen. Obama can always be spun as,

"This is really great news for John McCain!"

I am pleased and proud that the likely next president seems to be getting a warm recpetion internationally just as I was pleased and proud that the current president was getting a cold reception. I am also proud of fellow citizens who are attempting to initiate citizen's arrests on several misadministration criminals.

I just like that he naturally listens. that picture shows the same guy who posted this video address at Netroots Nation: "we've had some disagreements in the past and we'll have some disagreements in the future..."...he's right. The thing that comforts me is that I think he does actually listen, and that he may be a decent balance of strong and persuadable...and govern accordingly.

E2, I am a bit short of 17 years but the years I have spent here have not been as part of the military or the whole base culture that has built up around it. Most military people no matter how long they have been in Germany have no clue about Germans.

As others have pointed out, the crowd gathered was not waiting for a rock concert--if the concert was the carrot, it would have been offered after the speech, not before. You're thinking like the Bush crowd, so you think the Dems manipulate the scene to the same extent. I'm not saying they never use any stagecraft, but they don't pull the weird stunts the Republicans do.

And you didn't address the other, glaring issue, Bush's huge unpopularity in Europe. Just going to ignore that one, eh?

Personally, I think you're a plant--complaining Obama should have given away his campaign money to Americans--what the...? Really, how do you know who paid and who are you to decide how the sponsors should spend their money?

It's no use arguing with trolls. They are a waste of time.

Obama is already influencing foreign policy. I'm looking forward to his economic policy coming into discussion, and hope ti can have similar effects.

The photo is very genuine in expressing Obama's intelligence and ability to listen and consider other's viewpoints. A very refreshing change from the last seven years.

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