Obama2012 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

While reading a post from Michael O’Brien of NBC News on what to look for in today’s “fiscal cliff” talks at the White House, I was startled by the photo of President Obama. It was taken after he alighted from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday. He cut short his annual year-end Hawaiian getaway to return to chilly Washington to deal with the fiscal cliff.

That’s not snow on the president’s head. That’s a whole lot of gray hair. Silver stuff that was barely there when Obama took his official portrait in 2009. The pressures of sitting in the Oval Office have a way of aging its occupant. And it’s most noticeable in his hair. An economic collapse, grinding unemployment, the health-care fight, recalcitrant Republicans, a presidential campaign, mass shootings and the roiling Middle East are just a few of the issues that have contributed to Obama’s platinum pate.

The salt-and-pepperfication of the chief executive happens slowly over time before our very eyes. But there are moments like the one I had this morning when we see clearly the toll the job has on a president.

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