Who Was in the Room
Mr. Obama did not take a seat at the table as he watched a live feed of the raid from a crewless drone overhead. Instead, he was seated off to the side, next to Brig. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, assistant commanding general of Joint Special Operations Command, who was overseeing the communications for the operation.
Also seated around the table: Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., without a tie; Denis McDonough, who was deputy national security adviser at the time, and also tieless; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with a hand covering her mouth in a gesture of apparent awe at what she was witnessing (at the time she said she was covering her mouth to cough, but later said it was a gasp); and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, with a tie but no jacket. Seven other national security officials, including Tom Donilon, the national security adviser (sans tie), filled the space behind the chairs to standing-room-only capacity.
The tension in the photograph is the scene of the nation’s top national security officials so absorbed in action taking place halfway across the globe that no one in the room seems aware of the presence of a photographer documenting the moment, or where they were positioned in relation to the president.
Mr. Trump, in contrast, is seated at the head of the table in the Situation Room’s main conference room, positioned at the center of the action with a smaller circle of aides fanning out around him.
On one side of Mr. Trump is Vice President Mike Pence. On the other is Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. The other officials are: Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser; Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, deputy director for special operations on the Joint Staff, whose face is obscured.
Mr. Obama’s understated position in the photograph makes him look like a White House staffer, not the man who ordered the raid the night before. Mr. Trump looks like a chief executive posing for a photograph in which his role is central to the story itself.
Minus the military uniforms, the Styrofoam coffee cups from the White House mess and the tangle of cables on the table, the picture could be mistaken as a still from Mr. Trump’s old reality show, “The Apprentice.”