Jerusalem to Berlin

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Clearing security at the Tel Aviv airport is such an achievement that I intend to put it on my resume. But now, as commenter Trifecta put it in an earlier thread, ich bin ein Swamplander.

Some of the reporters traveling with Obama were surprised upon landing to discover their editors in something of a frenzy. The reason: Drudge is using terms like “chaos” and “mob scene” to describe Obama’s visit early this morning to the Western Wall. But that’s not the way the pool saw it. (When I asked pooler Jeff Zeleny of the NYT about the Drudge version, he was puzzled and conferred with the other poolers and emailed me back: “No mob scene. Not even close.”) Here’s Jeff’s actual pool report:

Senator Barack Obama left the King David Hotel at 5 a.m. and made the short drive in his motorcade to the Western Wall. The visit was unnanounced by the campaign, but dozens of people clearly were anticipating his arrival in the Old City.

It was a brief visit to one of the most sacred spots in Jerusalem, the section of the western supporting wall of the Temple Mount.

Mr. Obama, wearing a white skull cap, made his way down a walkway toward the Wall. He was escorted by the Rabbi of the Wall, Shmuel Rabinovich, and surrounded by many others when he reached the wall.

As the Rabbi quietly read Psalm 122, both he and Mr. Obama flipped through a Holy book on a wooden stand. A clear moon helped illuminate a still-dark sky. The moment unfolded as a lone man standing about 10 yards away yelled over and over, “Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale! Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!”

After the prayer, Mr. Obama walked a final few paces to the Wall and followed the custom of placing a personal note between the stone cracks, with his prayers or wishes left alongside hundreds of others. Then, he placed his hand on the Wall, bowed his head and stood in quiet contemplation for a few moments.

The heckler continued his chant as Mr. Obama walked away from the Wall. Several other men tried to drown out his voice with chants of, “Obama, Obama, Obama.”

Dozens of people cheered and reached out to grab the senator’s hand. About 10 minutes after he arrived, his motorcade left the Old City and drove to the Tel Aviv airport.

Shortly before we took off from Tel Aviv, Obama came back to the press section for the first time during this trip. He jokingly tried to tamp down expectations for tonight’s speech, and talked about a number of other topics. Rather than characterize the back and forth, I can offer a fuller flavor with this verbatim, courtesy of USA Today’s Kathy Kiely and the Washington Post’s Dan Balz, who kindly transcribed Dan’s tape while I napped:

Obama I was expecting more ..

Q. Decorum?

BO:.. reverence. Decorum, yes exactly. So, anyway. You guys all surviving?

Q. We’re doing all right.

Q. (Jake, inaudible)

BO: He read a prayer from the Torah, but then he had, as a gift, there was a book chronicling the whole — the wall and the process.

Q. Oh and he gave it to you.

BO: Yeah, which was nice

Q. So it wasn’t a holy book as our pooler reported.

Q. Looked holy to me.

BO: Well, the first one was the Torah. But then the big book was a gift. It was a nice coffee table book.

Q. Do you want to tell us what your prayer was?

BO. Uh, no.

Q. How do you like your new plane?

BO. It’s crowded. It’s packed.

Q. There’s a little more room up there though isn’t there, a little more leg room.

Q We saw your barcalounger..

BO. I’m not going to lie to you, guys but listen, I suffered in these seats for an ample amount of time.

Q. So did we.

BO. There was not, in fact there is probably less leg room than this. My legs kept on bumping up in the original configuration.

Q. Oh, woe is us. You’re not going to let us take turns in the barcaloungers though are you.

BO. You want to come back? Sure, we’ll bring some press up. But I’m sleeping right now. I’m sleeping right now so you guys are not allowed.

Q. How much sleep have you had so far on this trip?

A. You know. Not much. Because the way the schedule was structured, I never got a chance to adjust my hours. So you get in, you get to bed about 11 and then at 3 in the morning — Has that been happening to anybody else? Or are you just sort of like –.

Q. We didn’t go to bed tonight.

BO:. The difference though is, sort of mid- afternoon, you’re not in middle of some briefing, trying to you know, as it catches up to you.


A I think we’ve got some downtime. What are you guys going to do in Berlin? Huh? Dowd? You got any big plans?

Q You want to do something?

A I don’t know. Do you know Berlin pretty well? No? I have never been to Berlin. So this would be– I would love to tool around a little.

Q. How do you feel about speaking to a million screaming Germans?

A I doubt we’re going to have a million screaming Germans. Let’s tamp down expectations here. If we get a few tens of thousands —

Q. 900,000.

Q. Let’s start a pool.

BO: We could! Why don’t you guys —

Q. And whoever wins, gets to sleep in the barca.

BO: I did not realize, my staff basically just told me, that this space is bigger than I realized, so —

Q. Is that a good or bad thing?

BO. That’s a potentially bad thing (laughs) if nobody shows up. We’re sort of on the high wire out there. I was like, I’m sorry, how many does that accommodate?

Q. So you’re going to be out scouring up a crowd this afternoon,

A Well that’s true- that might be —

Q. Go around and hand out those fliers?

A. Why don’t you guys go around and distribute some fliers. Does that present a conflict for you guys?. Not really!.

Q Tell the McCain campaign.

A Yeah. So, but – uh, no, I mean this is one of those where we really have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s sort of a crap shoot. I’m happy with the speech though.

Q. Did you get any chance in Iraq to speak with any people?

A. No, that’s the tough thing about the war zones, you just, you can’t talk to the local population. It’s just too controlled. That’s an advantage that the press has, particularly now that it’s a little safer, there’s a possibility in interacting. The meetings we had with the sheiks and the governor, I mean obviously they’re public figures and officials, but my sense was they’re closer to the ground and it gave you a better sense of how ordinary Iraqis are thinking about it.

Q (high point of trip)

A. This (laughter). I had to earn it. I said, when do I get a chance to go back and talk to the press? (more laughter) Uh, yeah.

Q. What’s your second favorite moment?

Q. Leaving.[the press cabin].

A. You know I really get a kick out of spending time with the troops. Their morale is high, but they really appreciate acknowledgement of what they’re doing. You know everywhere we went in Afghanistan and Iraq they were just really eager to tell their story, what they were doing. And it was moving. And it’s neat to see the mix. You have a bunch of 20-year olds and then you’ll get a 40-year old or 50-year old who’s in the Guard; a Missouri banker who’s helping to try to set up a agricultural project. You know, that’s pretty spectacular.

Q. Did some of them have politics on their mind. They’re going to vote in this election

A. You know, they didn’t ask any political questions.

Q. They didn’t ask you what it’s like to run or anything like that?

A. Yeah, I mean, some — I guess they’d ask that kind of question — you know, what’s it like traveling around the country and do you miss your family. You know, I mean, they’d ask personal questions. But there wasn’t a lot of issue stuff that they brought up.

Q. Were there a lot of Democrats in the crowd?

A. I can’t tell but the crowds were really big and responsive. So it’s hard to say

Q. When you talk to the troops and you’re a senator, much less a presidential candidate, do you feel like you get the straight story from people?

A. You know, I think if you get them outside of earshot of their commanding officers or, you know, whoever they’re reporting to, and I think a lot of times you do. There are times where you’re in a briefing where you can tell there’s, uh, there’s, there’s restraint on their part in terms of offering their views. But generally I think their enthusiasm for their work is genuine.

Q. Had you had small group sessions with Gen. Petraeus before.

A. Yeah – oh, oh. No. I mean this is the first time that we had spent that much time together, just he and I and Sen. Reed and Hagel. So, I found it very useful. He’s a very smart guy Ambassador Crocker I think is just a real unsung hero of this whole process.

Q. How so?

A. Very savvy but incredibly humble and self-effacing.

Q You feel like you could work with Petraeus?

A Yes. I mean he’s an extraordinarily capable person.

Q Senator, because morning is going to arrive on the East Coast before you give your speech, what’s in it? Can you give us a preview, a thumbnail sketch.

A You’re not going to get that.

Q Will it be soaring rhetoric, or are you going to do like a 10-point policy briefing.

A. (laugh) No, it’s not, it’s not a wonkish policy speech.

Q. (will he speak German)

A. Probably — My German is not real good. I can speak Ba’hasa (phonetic)Indonesia, but I don’t think the Germans — there would be a lot of appeal for that.

Q) cross talk

A. Sure … especially if it’s – there it’s on their own time. How is it that Fox News gets the hookup with Armed Forces television? Is that the commander in chief’s choice or (laughing)

Q. When did you start writing the speech?

A. We started working on it about two weeks ago. We started working on it then. Alright guys, have fun, I just wanted to say hi.

Q Thanks, senator. Thanks for coming back. see you later I just wanted to come back and say hi.

A. I’m sorry?

Q. She said, is the speech finished?

A. Yeah.

Q. When did you finish it?

A. We actually — it was in pretty good shape even a couple of days ago. Now we’re just going to twirl it around a little bit

Q. When did you start planning this trip because this is a pretty remarkable thing for not having a White House support staff. Pulling this off.

A. we had thought about the idea of taking a trip like this pretty early on in the campaign. Maybe not to this extent, but I think the idea of spending some time, certainly in Iraq and Afghanistan was — and then maybe one or two other stops was something that we had anticipated for sometime

Q. Are you impressed by all the international reaction and crowds that you’ve gotten in each –

A I’m sorry? What’s that.

Q Have you been surprised y all the crowds that have come to your international events?

A Um, you know, what I think – I anticipated was that – I think the world is keenly interested in this election. And I think they’re hungry for a sense of where America’s going. So, certainly there’s a curiosity factor involved.

Q Does this… a campaign speech tonight?

A As opposed to?

Q you’re in a campaign, you’re giving a speech, would you describe it as a campaign speech?

A Well, I’m not speaking to – the people in the crowd aren’t voters so I that sensei’s not designed to get them to the polls. It’s not a political rally. Hopefully it will be viewed as a substantive articulation of the relationship I ‘d like to see between the United States and Europe.

Q The audience is also back home, though, too right? The audience is not just the crowd. You hope people in Ohio are watching.

A Well I’m hoping to communicate across the Atlantic the value of that relationship and how we need to build on it. All right. Okay guys. See what happens when I just come back and say hello. And we’re going to have a bunch of flights back and forth so we’ll give time to some folks.

Q Did you [look to] the Reagan and Kennedy speeches about Berlin at all in shaping your remarks. Do you see any parallels?

A They were presidents. I am a citizen. But obviously Berlin is representative of, um, the extraordinary success of the post-World War 2 effort to bring the continent together and to bring the West together and then later to bring East and West together. So I think it’s a natural place to talk about –

Q Do you see the speech as one aspect for proving yourself and what you can be if you were elected president.

A No, I’m just giving a speech. All right guys.

Q Don’t you think this week is still part of the run up – you still want the American audience to get something from the speech?

A There’s no doubt that I want, uh – there’s no doubt that part of what I want to communicate on both sides of the Atlantic is the enormous potential of us restoring a sense of coming together. All right. Gotta go.

Meanwhile, this just in:

Pool Report No. 2
July 24, 2008

Senator Barack Obama arrived at the German Chancellery about 10:55 am. As he stepped out of his white Surburban, a small crowd of people cheered and applauded. He waved and walked through the glass doors, greeting a line of people .
He emerged with Chancellor Angela Merkel at 11 a.m. on the second floor of the Chancellery. The two wore wide smiles as they walked across the modern, sun-filled room that is lined with modern art. It opens to wide view, with the Reichstag on one side and the Victory Column on the other.
The chancellor and the senator shook hands and posed for two groups of photographs — first from the German press, second from the U.S. traveling press. They exchanged a few seconds of small talk, which was out of earshot of your pool, and waved before retiring for their private meeting at 11:05 am.
Neither seemed in the mood to linger.