By Samantha Hayes
WASHINGTON -- Senator Barack Obama said something at the tail end of his trip to Europe and the Middle East that struck me. It wasn't political. It had nothing to do with foreign policy, which was the focus of much of his conversation abroad. It was a comment that opened a window for us to see, for a moment, what it might be like to be in the spotlight constantly.
CNN's Candy Crowley asked Obama about his private ride with King Abdullah of Jordan, who drove Obama to the airport. "Does it make you want to change the rules of president to sort of take over the driving from the Secret Service?" Obama replied, "I would love to drive. I miss driving. Ah - like I miss a lot of stuff. But I think - you know - when you are in Jordan - when the King of Jordan says he wants to drive - he gets the keys. It doesn't work that way in the United States."
A lot of things probably don't go the way they used to for Barack Obama. He received Secret Service protection early in his presidential campaign. His days on the campaign trail are scheduled from beginning to end, and in this age of constant coverage, he must always be on point.
His main rival for the Democratic nomination humorously talked about the rigors of the campaign trail shortly after she suspended her bid. At a fundraising Women's Breakfast in New York City, Hillary Clinton shared a conversation she had with Obama. She told the crowd, mostly women, that she was trying to exercise every day. "As I'm sure you've read, Barack Obama would get up every morning and go faithfully to the gym. I would get up every morning and get my hair done."
Even getting to the gym may be difficult for the presumptive Democratic nominee now. The news media is eagerly awaiting the announcement of the two major candidates' choices for running mates, and the party conventions are back to back at the end of the summer, and then the big day is only weeks away. Security for Obama and Senator John McCain is already running over budget and the Secret Service has asked for an extra $9.5 million. I imagine Obama and McCain are rarely, if ever, not under supervision.
In fact, they can't even take a walk alone. A friend of mine was riding his bike in Rock Creek Park here in Washington a few weeks ago when he noticed Secret Service personnel along the path. They were protecting Obama as he power walked through that stretch of the park while talking on his cell phone.
Of course, the loss of privacy and personal time will only be that much greater if he wins the presidency. If that happens, tossing the car keys to the Secret Service may be a relief. Especially if he knows what it's like to drive in Washington traffic. Or fill up the gas tank.