India, a land of magic and mystery, put on show just by being its strange and wondrous place. The president got to make some speeches and talk mostly about himself. At one stop an incredulous listener counted 118 mentions of Himself, the Big Fellow, in one 33-minute speech.
Himself held forth on his favorite topic the crimes, misdemeanors and shortcomings of America. He affected his best preacherly voice: "Sisters and brothers of India," he said, "we are not perfect countries. And we've known tragedy and triumph. We're home to glittering skyscrapers, but also terrible poverty, and new wealth, but also rising inequality."
He even had a new place to play the race card; he never leaves home without it. "Even as America has blessed us with extraordinary opportunities, there were moments in my life where I've been treated differently because of the color of my skin."
The incredulous Indians looked at the big Boeing 747 that had brought him to New Delhi, the enormous retinue of aides, servants, savants, touts, tasters, beaters and other path-clearers to pamper and appease him and tried to imagine what he was talking about. He gets all that, and wants pity, too? Everything looked like respect, regard and reverence.
He told a crowd of young people what a good Christian he is, and complained that sometimes people who don't know him say he "adheres to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing." Every person "has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear and persecution."
He had to cut his visit short, just as Michelle was enjoying herself, and hurry on to Saudi Arabia where she couldn't enjoy herself, and where a man practicing his faith as he chooses risks leaving his head in the sand.
The Saudi executioners put the Islamic State to shame. They beheaded 11 men and a woman in Chop Chop Square just before the Obamas arrived.
The Saudis, like the men of Islamic State, keep their beheading knives close at hand; 87 men and women paid for infractions with their head in 2014, and 10 have lost their heads already in the first 20 days of January.
When beheading becomes an Olympic sport the Saudis aim to hog the gold.
Paying tribute to the royals was a full day's work in only four hours for the president, with no help from Michelle. The king was dead, and would stay that way, so long live the king. Michelle had had to leave in India a smartly flowered black frock that hugged her figure nicely and get into black pants else the mere sight of bare feminine legs inflame the libidos of the royals.
The new king and his knights met the president and the first lady at the foot of the stairway of the big Boeing, all oily smiles for him and a few condescending nods for her.
Several men in the greeting party, decked out in braid and sword as if they had just ridden in from a war in the desert, took Michelle's hand as if it were a dead fish. Most of the knights wouldn't touch it. With her head defiantly uncovered, she stood the ritual two paces behind the president, her hands clasped in front of her, with the expression on her face saying everything, her dignity under pressure testifying that being a woman was nothing to be ashamed of, either at home or in the desert. (Cheers for her.)
It's a rare man in the West who could abide such insult to his wife, but Mr. Obama soldiered on to the king's palace for dinner and a discussion about what the United States, which have saved the royal Saudi bacon before, can do for the Saudi royals this time, confronted now by Islamic terrorists of Iran, the Islamic state, and lately Yemen. If the president said anything to the king about the Saudi war on women, there was no public mention of it.
The president had dispatched a remarkable delegation to bow and scrape, pretending to grief and euphoria in the presence of the king of the oil wells. The party included a secretary of state, two former secretaries of state, national security advisers to three presidents, a couple of generals and the chief of spies. (Al Sharpton had a prior commitment.)
All the president got was an insult for his wife.