A balcony near the stage in Cairo University's Grand Hall was reserved today for senior members of Obama's staff joining him on this trip. Sitting front and center, looking disheveled in glasses
but no jacket [update: no; short-term memory failure], was senior political advisor David Axelrod. Nearby were press secretary Robert Gibbs and deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer; Chicago friend and top advisor Valerie Jarrett; national security aides Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert; and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who appeared to be chewing gum with impatient energy. Foreign policy speechwriter Ben Rhodes, who had a key hand in the speech, leaned in a doorway and seemed to follow the speech text intently on his BlackBerry. Chief speechwriter John Favreau, looking typically laid back, watched his boss and occasionally exchanged whispered observations with Axelrod.
Down on the floor, meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat in the front row, accompanied by longtime aides Huma Abedin and Philippe Reines. After the speech, she was swarmed by the visiting dignitaries, although the press corps showed almost no interest in her presence. Only in Obama's presence could Hillary be an afterthought.