The White House just released this transcribed encounter between Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the traveling White House press corps. The brief Q&A occurred during President Obama's meeting aboard Air Force One in Copenhagen, Denmark, with the top US commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Transcript begins here:
MR. GIBBS: Hey, guys.
Q Hi, Robert. How are you?
MR. GIBBS: I'm good.
Q What's the holdup here?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me give you a quick scheduling update while we're holding here on the ground. You guys will want to come closer for this. About 15 minutes ago, the President began a meeting with General McChrystal. The President called General McChrystal Wednesday prior to the three-hour meeting that happened in the Situation Room that General McChrystal, among others, joined by video teleconference. During the telephone call, the President learned from General McChrystal that he would be in London while the President was in Copenhagen, a short flight away. The President wanted to take the opportunity to get together with General McChrystal and continue the conversation that they had as part of the meeting on Wednesday.
As I said, the meeting started -- I'll read out times as soon as we're -- as soon it's done. General McChrystal -- his wife, Annie, is also aboard and had an opportunity to meet both the President and the First Lady prior to the meeting that's happening in the President's forward cabin on Air Force One.
Q So General McChrystal came from London to Copenhagen?
MR. GIBBS: He came from London where he was working on stuff, and I don't know the date of his return to Afghanistan but I presume somewhat shortly.
Q They're meeting here Robert -- they're meeting on the plane?
MR. GIBBS: They're meeting in the forward cabin.
Q And we'll sit here till they're done -- he's not coming back to D.C.?
MR. GIBBS: No, he goes back to Afghanistan and we'll sit here until the meeting concludes, and I'll come back and give you guys times on that and you guys will have a chance to file here in a second, too.
Q Is it just the two men or are there others in the meeting?
MR. GIBBS: It's just the two of them.
Q Is it just a follow-on conversation to Wednesday, is what you're saying?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, this is -- again, they realized -- the President realized that he would be close and thought it was a good opportunity to continue the conversation and discussion about Afghanistan and Pakistan that happened -- at least started in the middle of September in a meeting and continued in the Situation Room for three hours on Wednesday.
Q Does this make it the third time the two men have spoken?
MR. GIBBS: Let me -- I know they met in the Oval Office with Secretary Gates --
Q Then they spoke Wednesday.
MR. GIBBS: They spoke Wednesday, today, and another time on videoconference in a meeting on Afghanistan in August in the Situation Room -- I forget the exact date.
Q Is the President at all concerned about General McChrystal's comments in London that seem to rule out any kind of a scaled-back strategy that some people are talking about?
MR. GIBBS: I haven't had an opportunity to talk to him about it, and I'll see what we can get after this meeting.
Q What was he doing in London?
MR. GIBBS: I believe he gave a speech. I assume there were other -- that he had other -- I don't know if you call them "business appointments" -- activities around Afghanistan, but I honestly don't know what his schedule was.
Q When was this set up, Robert?
MR. GIBBS: It was set up on -- they talked on Wednesday, so it probably finalized in the day or so after that, but the invitation and idea was hatched on that phone call on Wednesday.
Q Robert, is there any chance the President may speak to us about the Olympic decision?
MR. GIBBS: Depends on what that decision is. (Laughter.)
Q Is he going to watch it, though, on the plane -- the decision on the plane?
MR. GIBBS: I presume so. I guess if we can get one of the networks or one of the cables, yes.
Q If it does go Chicago's way, would he -- just for our guidance -- would he speak here or you think back at home or --
MR. GIBBS: My sense is probably speak at home. Unfortunately videos here look a little bit like hostage videos so -- through no fault of anybody's except it's just a plane. (Laughter.)
Q Is that what the 4:00 p.m. statement is or was that planned for something else?
MR. GIBBS: That will also be to address unemployment numbers, which come out in an hour, hour and a half.
Q Robert, is there any chance he may want to talk to his friends in the print pool?
MR. GIBBS: Who, the President or --
Q Well, we know you do, but --
Q Or General McChrystal. You could bring him back, too. We're happy to talk with him. Anybody in the forward cabin, we're happy to talk with.
MR. GIBBS: I will check about the President's availability to speak to his friends back here in the press.
Q His constituents.
MR. GIBBS: His constituents, as he refers to them.
Q Is he still meeting or is it over?
MR. GIBBS: They should still be in the meeting. I'll come back and give you guys times.