White House Press Pool Report 2

Subject: Pool report #2

Sending this for David Nakamura of the Washington Post:


At 4:45 p.m., the motorcade arrived at the Siriraj Hospital, where Potus and Clinton were to meet King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turns 85 in Dec. and has been staying at the hospital since 2009 because he is ill. Pool was led to the 14th floor to a wing with the name: WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Tissue Banking. Your print pooler and a video pooler, accompanied by White House photographer Pete Souza, were then led into a meeting room where we were told to bow toward the king. He was sitting in one of 10 armchairs with flower-pattered beige padding and gold trip on the arms and legs. Aides were dressed in formal white military uniforms, but the king was in a navy blue suit with lighter blue tie and matching pocket square. One military aide was kneeling behind him. Potus entered the room with Clinton trailing behind, along with another American woman. Potus strode toward the king, who remained seated and quite, and Potus said: “Your majesty” and grasped his hand. “It’s a great honor.”

Clinton followed and said, “Hello again. It’s so good to see you again. And my husband sends you his very best regards. Thank you so much.”

Obama took a seat next to the king, and Clinton took a seat to one side, with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra sitting across from her. There was a rug but no table. An aide sat next to Shinawatra, and they also were in the dress white uniforms.

Obama said: “It’s a great honor to meet with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. We send greetings from all the people of the United States who are so grateful for the friendship of our two countries and are great admirers of yours – your wisdom and your leadership.”

The king responded in a very slow, soft tone. It was hard to hear him. Obama then smiled and said: “Elections in the United States are very long but it’s very gratifying to know people still have confidence in me. I thought it was very important that my first trip after the elections was to Thailand, which is such a great ally.”

The king then handed Obama a few gifts, including a red box, which Potus pulled back the lid. Pool could not see inside. Potus smiled and resonded that: “this is beautiful. Thank you so much. This is lovely.”  Then the American woman next to Clinton said the gift was for “Mrs. Obama.”

Potus said: “Oh, thank you, Michelle, my wife” would “appreciate it.”

Clinton: “She’ll look very good in that color, Mr. President.”

Potus then picked up a photo album, which he said contained photos of all the U.S. presidents and First Ladies the King has met with, starting with Eisenhower. Obama began flipping through the pages to show the King. It included Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Nancy Reagan, George H.W. Bush and President Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Potus said “We left the last page blank” so they could put a photo of themselves together in it.

Then he pointed to a framed lithograph that was on an easel nearby. It was a mural of Thai and US flags, that Potus said was specially commissioned for the King who is an art lover. It was “to symbolize friendship,” Potus said.

Pool was led out of the room as they continued to talk. Pool overheard Obama saying he met with PM Shinawatra in Bali last year, saying it “strengthened our relationship” as we left. We were led back to the vans to wait for more than 20 minutes.



Laura Meckler

The Wall Street Journal