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Obama Says G-8 Move Was Not Because Of Security Concerns

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Mar 6, 2012 10:10PM

2012_03_06_obama_G8.png President Barack Obama said Tuesday during a press conference at the White House that security concerns played no role in the decision to move the G-8 Summit from Chicago to Camp David. Obama pointed out there will still be "a whole bunch of leaders" in Chicago for the NATO summit, and he said Mayor Rahm Emanuel “will be quite attentive to detail in making sure that everything goes off well.”

The White House has said it wanted a more intimate and informal location, and Obama cited the election of new/old Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of the reason for that. Obama said the G8 and NATO conferences were usually held in the same location just for travel logistics for the leaders, but he hasn't had his "counterparts" out to Camp David yet.

“I always have confidence in Chicago being able to handle security issues, whether it’s Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza or Bulls championships, we know how to deal with a crowd,” Obama said.

For months the city has beefed up security with riot gear for police, horses and wastebaskets to anticipate throngs of protesters, plus new laws for protesters that the ACLU calls "an unnecessary show of authority." But in the meantime, officials say it will be "business as usual" in Chicago in May. But neither Obama nor Emanuel mentions any of that. Naturally we can't help but think of the mysterious "secret meetings" that Emanuel had in Washington, D.C., last month. He later admitted the NATO and G-8 summits were the reason for the trip, but no further details were revealed.

Here is the full transcript of the exchange from the White House. Video of Obama's remarks from CSPAN is at the bottom. Also, during the press conference Obama pronounces Lollapalooza oddly, and we can't tell if he's trying to do an exaggerated Chicago accent or if he's just tongue-tied.

THE PRESIDENT: Lynn, since you’ve been hollering and you’re from my hometown, make it a good one.

Q My question is about the switch of the G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. A reason given from the White House is that now you wanted a more intimate summit. People of Chicago would like to know what do you know now that you did not know when you booked hometown Chicago for the G8 that led to the switch? And what role did security threats possibly play in the decision?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind, Lynn, we’re still going to be showing up with a whole bunch of world leaders. We’ve got this NATO summit. Typically what’s happened is, is that we try to attach the G8 summit to the NATO summit so that the leaders in the G8 summit don't have to travel twice to whatever location. So last year, in France, we combined a G8 with a NATO summit. We'll do so again.

I have to say, this was an idea that was brought to me after the initial organizing of the NATO summit. Somebody pointed out that I hadn't had any of my counterparts, who I've worked with now for three years, up to Camp David. G8 tends to be a more informal setting in which we talk about a wide range of issues in a pretty intimate way. And the thinking was that people would enjoy being in a more casual backdrop. I think the weather should be good that time of year. It will give me a chance to spend time with Mr. Putin, the new Russian President. And from there, we will then fly to Chicago.

I always have confidence in Chicago being able to handle security issues. Whether it's Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza -- (laughter) -- or Bull's championships, we know how to deal with a crowd. And I'm sure that your new mayor will be quite attentive to detail in making sure that everything goes off well.