By Lynn Sweet
AMMAN, Jordan--For presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the political goals of visiting seven countries over nine days-- maximizing media coverage along the way in a series of staged events with dramatic visual backdrops--is to plug his resume gap and show him on an equal footing with world leaders.
Though many details of the trip were cloaked in secrecy, the Obama campaign arranged interviews not only with the three major network anchors--but "exclusives" with other TV news heavyweights, one for almost each day of the trip.
Sunday was CBS in Afghanistan with Lara Logan; Monday ABC in Iraq with Terry Moran; Tuesday, CBS Kitty Couric in Amman; Wednesday, ABC's Charlie Gibson in Jerusalem; Thursday, NBC's Brian Williams in Berlin and Saturday in London, Fox's Bill Hemmer and NBC's "Meet the Press" with Tom Brokaw. This way, each outlet has "their" day. Obama appeared on CNN's Larry King Live in the run-up publicity to the trip.
Obama, who left Chicago last Thursday for Afghanistan and then Iraq, with stops en route in Kuwait, arrives in Amman on Tuesday, for a brief but packed visit: he meets with King Abdullah II at his palace; dines with the kings' cabinet and holds a media availability in a city with no lack of stunning historic sites for backdrops.
Jordan is a country deep impacted by the Iraq war, with refugees flooding the neighboring country. Gas in Jordan, subsidized before the war, is skyrocketing.
But the central issue in the region is the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the challenge here is for Obama to appeal to Arab leaders without alienating Jewish voters in the U.S. who make up a critical donor base for him. Obama travels to Israel on Tuesday night.
Denis McDonough, an Obama foreign policy advisor, said Obama wants to talk to the king--who he has met before--about "Our shared interests"--economic developments and Middle East peace.
An irony: King Abdullah is rushing back to Jordan from Colorado--where he was on Monday-- in order to meet with Obama here.