Barack Obama, who has spent an extraordinary percentage of his adult life running for office, will soon be padding his dossier by touring Iraq. The NYT’s Jim Rutenberg reports:
Senator John McCain’s trip to Iraq last spring was a low-key affair: With his ordinary retinue of reporters following him abroad, the NBC News anchor Brian Williams reported on his arrival in Baghdad from New York, with just two sentences tacked onto the “in other political news” portion of his newscast.
But when Obama heads for Iraq and other locations overseas this summer, Williams is planning to catch up with him in person, as are the other two evening news anchors, Charles Gibson of ABC and Katie Couric of CBS, who, like Williams, are far along in discussions to interview Obama on successive nights.
And while the anchors are jockeying for interviews with Obama at stops along his route, the regulars on the Obama campaign plane will have new seat mates: star political reporters from the major newspapers and magazines who are flocking to catch Obama’s first overseas trip since becoming the presumptive nominee of his party.
This sounds like a great premise for a black comedy about the media (Paddy Chayevsky, where are you?) with plenty of opportunity for back-stabbing, sexual hijinks and self-promotion, but almost no occasion for learning anything about Iraq. Most of all it’s a massive publicity stunt. Dan Rather must be eating his heart out. All those flak jackets and nowhere to go.
Now I shouldn’t be so cynical. No doubt the candidate wil huddle with David Petraeus and have a few photo ops/cum meaningful “tete a tetes” with our boys in the field, but the whole thing is a charade. What we will witness is the spectacle of an empty shell being pursued and cosseted by the people who created him, a social class desperate to justify the absurd elevation of a man into a demi-god before he had even ever done anything.
Meanwhile, if Obama himself really wanted to learn anything about Iraq he would go alone (or nearly), just as any serious person would. But this trip isn’t about learning anything, is it?