Awaiting Obama in Amman

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Your correspondent landed here about two hours ago. The candidate himself does not arrive until midday tomorrow, our time, and will have a press avail (word is, on a mountaintop) with Senators Hagel and Reed. That will be the major news of the day. While we were in the air, it appears that Maliki walked back from his walkback of the Der Spiegel interview, and is now, through his spokesman, talking about the end of 2010 as “an Iraqi vision” for a troop withdrawal. That’s about six months off Obama’s position.

This is my first time in this part of the world, and though I am typing this from a conference room that could be in any hotel anywhere (Okay, any Four Seasons anywhere…), the view out the window is spectacular, with dusk settling in over this bleached landscape and the lights of the city just starting to come on. On the drive here from the Royal Terminal of Queen Alia Airport, I was struck, as I’m sure all first-time visitors are, at the contrasts: tents and sheep, but also billboards for spectacularly expensive jewelry and a building that called itself the New York Institute of Technology. It also struck me as a commentary on what technology has done to us, no one on the press bus I was on seemed to notice much of it — so focused were we on figuring out how to make our BlackBerries work.

I should also note that my earlier description of the new Air Obama plane omitted an important detail, which I discovered as I wandered forward in the middle of the night. It actually has four compartments, not three. The front one, set up for Obama, has about four swivel chairs (on one, the headrest is embroidered “Obama 08”) and some seats set up like a conference table. I noticed there is already a basketball with the Obama sunrise logo in the overhead. Staff and advisers get the second compartment, where the seats look like Barcaloungers, and press is in the third and fourth ones. Ours are regular coach seats, but with a bit more legroom, I think.