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The White House

Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs aboard Air Force One en route Andrews Air Force Base, 10/2/09

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                         October 2, 2009
Aboard Air Force One
En route Andrews Air Force Base
1:04 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Hello, guys. Here we go with the hostage video I was talking about earlier, right? (Laughter.) All right. Fire away.
Q What's your reaction?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President was watching television when the news came across. Obviously I think the President is disappointed, as you might imagine. I think he continues to believe, and we heard this from a number of people, that Chicago had a very strong if not the best bid. But I think he feels obviously proud of his wife for the presentation that she made, and doesn't shy away from promoting America in this event or in any other venue as a way to showcase this country.
Q Was it the right decision to come?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. Again, the President would never shy away from travelling anywhere, talking to anyone, about this country. He's enormously proud of the effort that was made, obviously wishes that the Olympic Games were coming here in 2016, but I think there's no doubt that this was the right move.
Q What about the fact that it was so early --
Q -- talked to the Brazilian delegation?
MR. GIBBS: He's trying to get President Lula on the phone, yes.
Q On the fact that it was so early on -- it was like the -- it was the first city that was eliminated.
MR. GIBBS: I don't -- I don't understand IOC politics so I'm not probably best to speak on that.
Q What did the President say to make you tell us he was disappointed?
MR. GIBBS: Well, he said that. He just -- I talked to him about it, he said he was disappointed at the outcome, but I don't -- doesn't change his involvement in it at all.
Q Any reaction from Mrs. Obama?
MR. GIBBS: I did not talk to her about it.
Q Robert, there were some who say that --
Q -- watching it where --
MR. GIBBS: Just up in the front cabin.
Q By himself? Who was with him?
MR. GIBBS: I think he was up there alone and then he came back to talk to us.
Q Was he like in a suit still? What was he wearing? Any drinking, maybe eating something? Any details at all?
MR. GIBBS: I think he's still wearing what he was wearing. I don't know what he was eating when he found out.
Q You say this was IOC politics, so if you could at all --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I just said -- the response was -- asked me about the voting in the first round and I said I don't -- I'm not best suited to talk about the bid or why in the first round of voting or the IOC process and politics. I just don't think I have -- I don't know --
Q Do you feel misled about the possibility of getting this?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I mean, look, again, I'll say again, I think the President -- I know the President would never shy away from promoting a city or a state or the country on the international stage. I think Chicago had a very strong bid. I think by all accounts and by many accounts it was the strongest bid.
Q Did you talk to him at all about sort of just the process of making that presentation? It's sort of an odd atmosphere in that room when you're up there.
MR. GIBBS: We didn't talk about that, but I think he -- look, I think if you go back and look at both what the First Lady and what the President talked about, they talked from the heart about what Chicago has meant to them -- the diversity, the atmosphere, the real benefits of Chicago and the Midwest particularly of hosting an Olympic Games in this country. I think they made a pitch from the heart.
Q Robert, some of the Republicans had argued that this trip was not wise, given everything on the President's plate. Could you respond to that argument? And also this meeting with McChrystal --
MR. GIBBS: I want to know what was Michael Steele doing about 1:50 a.m. when we landed -- 1:50 a.m. in the morning when we landed in Denmark.
Q (Inaudible.)
MR. GIBBS: I can only imagine that somebody -- they probably had a press release queued up that said, if Chicago didn't get the Olympics and the President didn't get to go. You know, there's people trying to solve problems and there's people playing games, and I think we know where a bunch of that is.
Q So this meeting with General McChrystal, I'm sure the President was multitasking?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, if you have a President that can't multitask, then you shouldn't do the job or you shouldn't run for the job or you shouldn't run for a job where you represent more than the opinions of yourself in a legislative or executive branch. If you can't do more than one thing at a time, the President wouldn't have gotten through the first day. So, I mean, I think -- again, I think the biggest loss of anything on this trip was sleep.
Q How much sleep did the President get?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know. I don't think any of us got a whole lot. I think when -- you guys can attest to this -- just because the hour says it's time to go to sleep but you're in these chairs and bumping around a little bit, it doesn't mean -- look, in terms of -- let me just speak just for a second on the McChrystal meeting.
I mean, I described for you the reason and some of the logistics on how it happened. I talked to the President a bit about it. He found it to be very productive. He likes very much personally General McChrystal; got a chance, as I said earlier, to meet and talk with his wife, somebody who obviously is, along with General McChrystal, making personal sacrifices in this whole endeavor.
The President thought the meeting was very productive, an extension of the meetings that have been had thus far as we reassess and reevaluate moving forward in Afghanistan. The President has selected General McChrystal because of his ability and his leadership and I think after having seen him again, it simply underscored the fact that -- many of the reasons why he picked him.
They both agree that this is a helpful process. General McChrystal expects that the President and others are going to ask him questions about the assessment that he's made and that we're going to ask questions of our diplomatic side, of our intelligence side, and of all of those involved in this to get the best strategy for success in Afghanistan.
Q What can you get out of a 25-minute meeting though?
MR. GIBBS: No, I don't think -- I don't -- we had blocks of time on the President's schedule about 15 minutes a clip, so one on one, nobody else in the room, with General McChrystal for 25 minutes -- you can get a lot done. I think they talk about a lot of aspects of what's going on in the assessment and I think it was very valuable.
Q Can you say anything more about specifically what they discussed and what the President took out of it?
MR. GIBBS: That's all I got from the President.
Q And on the vote at the IOC, is there a larger message to be read in terms of United States' prestige in the world and the President's prestige?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think you saw both at the U.N. General Assembly, you saw at the G20 last week, I think we've made progress this week, albeit the beginning of a process in dealing internationally with Iran and bringing our allies together on that process. I think virtually every measure of our standing in the world is different than it was just this time last year. So I don't read too much of that into this.
Q Did he put too much presidential prestige on the line by coming, win or lose?
MR. GIBBS: No. Three world leaders showed up here in addition to us. Again, if he hadn't come, I'm sure people would say, I can't believe he didn't go and push the American bid for the Olympics; we're out of the first round because the President didn't -- you know. Look, if you can't take that sort of just base level of gnat-like criticism, then it's probably the wrong gig.
Q Does the President have a message to the people of Chicago right now?
MR. GIBBS: He's proud of their bid, he's proud of the hard work and the effort that was put into getting the Olympics. Again, I think he believes that Chicago had the best bid. And, look, like all of them, I think wishes that -- as he said in his remarks, he would have loved to have walked from his house to watch an Olympic sport in an Olympic venue.
Q Robert, I'm sorry if you answered this already, did the First Lady have a reaction?
MR. GIBBS: I have not talked to her about it, so I don't know. Look, my sense is she's largely in the same place -- disappointed.
Q Lessons learned from this?
MR. GIBBS: I'd have to talk more authoritatively to the Olympic bid guys in Chicago or at the USOC on that. I don't know --
Q But from a White House standpoint, lessons learned about dealing in this kind of arena?
MR. GIBBS: Look, you know, again, I don't think the President -- I know the President doesn't for one second regret going to do what we've done today. He would do it over again. Part of the job of the President is to show on a larger stage what America has to offer, what America has to offer the world, and how working together we can solve problems that don't recognize national borders. So I think that's a hefty part of the job as President and one he'll continue to do robustly.
Q Any updated reaction to the Iran talks in Geneva?
MR. GIBBS: No, I don't -- I haven't gotten anything new. Again, I think the President -- I'd reiterate what the President said yesterday, that they're a constructive beginning. The onus and responsibility continues to be with the Iranians. They made promises yesterday for unfettered access in the next couple of weeks. I know that Director General ElBaradei is travelling to Iran. There will be additional meetings and we expect the Iranians to live up to the promises that they've made now as they begin to make some decisions about living up to the rest of their international obligations. As the President said pretty clearly yesterday, if this ever -- if this gets to a point where we feel like the Iranians are simply doing this to talk for talk's sake, then we'll move to the next step.
Q Thanks.
MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys.
Q Could you offer a readout on the meeting with Prime Minister Rasmussen?
MR. GIBBS: Look, again, a productive discussion. The President -- the two of them talked about the strong relationship that we have. I'd say the two biggest topics were Afghanistan -- obviously there are about 700 troops from Denmark in Afghanistan fighting alongside, without any caveats, other troops. And we're certainly appreciative for their contribution. They also spent quite some time talking about the issue of climate change and next steps on that. So I think the President believed it was productive on both of those accounts.
Q The Prime Minister wanted him to come, wants him to come back in December. Was there any commitment on that?
MR. GIBBS: I don't believe there was a lot of discussion on that and I don't think there have been any decisions on that.
Q Is it something he'll consider though, Robert?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think, look, at this point you've got a meeting that's currently set for not necessarily a head of state meeting. So if that changes certainly we'll evaluate that. I mean, obviously this is an issue of some importance to the United States and to the President. And I think, again, getting people in the room to discuss this and try to make progress and move forward on addressing energy and environmental goals is tremendously important and one that the President would certainly take into account.
Q There will certainly be some who question why he can make a trip to Copenhagen to press for Chicago's bid and not come again to press for the climate change --
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, right now you've got a meeting that's set up for a level not at the head of state.
Q But if he said he would come, I'm sure that could be switched very quickly.
MR. GIBBS: And if it got switched, we would certainly look at coming.
All right? Thanks.
Q Thank you.
1:19 P.M. EDT