On Sunday, after more photo ops with U.S. troops at Camp Eggers, the presumptive Democratic nominee met with President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. Pictures of the meeting show the two men seated and chatting by a fireplace.
In Iraq Monday, Sen. Obama's first stop was at the Basra International Airport for photos and briefings from British, Iraqi and U.S. military commanders -- and then on to Baghdad for a red-carpet rollout at the residence of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. After the hourlong meet and greet, separate Kodak moments were held with Iraq's Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi.
After a well-photographed tour of the 86th Combat Support Hospital inside the Green Zone, Sen. Obama sat still for photos and a briefing by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker and then took a picture-perfect helicopter ride over Baghdad with Gen. Petraeus before dining -- and being videotaped -- with the CENTCOM commander.
On Tuesday, following a photo-breakfast with U.S. troops, the Obama entourage headed for Ramadi, the once-bloody capital of Anbar province. There he took photos with the provincial governor, Mamoun Sami Rashid al-Alawi; the provincial police chief, Tariq Yousef al-Asaal; and Ahmed Abu Risha and Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman of the "Sunni Awakening" movement. At day's end, it was pics in Amman with Jordanian King Abdullah II and a news conference, during which Sen. Obama summed up all he had learned: "My view, based on the advice of military experts, is that we can redeploy safely in 16 months so that our combat brigades are out of Iraq in 2010."
On Wednesday, taxpayers got a break, as the Obama campaign started covering costs for the global "Hope and Change" tour. Photos were taken with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and promises were made to "work for peace."
By Thursday, it was photos with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. Frantic Friday was a whirlwind of photos and "press avails" in Paris, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and in London, with U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and the Conservative Party's leader, David Cameron. Space surely will be saved in the campaign scrapbook for a frenzied welcome-home party in Chicago Saturday night.
Bottom line: Image is everything. Lots of great pics, which we're sure to see again. Nothing changed on issues that matter -- but a big bill for beleaguered U.S. taxpayers to cover the costs of Sen. Obama's excellent adventure.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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