The big day is finally here – President Obama’s highly anticipated sit-down with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley.
But if you were expecting words of wisdom from this “teachable moment,” don’t hold your breath – none of the three men will speak at the photo op at the White House this evening.
Gibbs said the President is not going to talk to reporters when they are taken out to capture the meeting. “There is no formal agenda, there is no legislative agenda,” Gibbs said, calling it an opportunity to foster a dialogue.
Gibbs said the sit-down is “not an after action report,” and does not expect they will go over the details of what went down that day at Gates’ house in Cambridge.
When told by ABC News’ Ann Compton that Gates wants an apology, Gibbs said “We’re not here to mediate apologies.”
The Gates and Crowley families will arrive separately at the White House at different times and will have separate tours of the White House residence. The First Lady is not in town today and the tours will be conducted by staff.
There was never a discussion about Lucia Whalen, the 911 caller, attending the meeting, Gibbs said.
Health Care Update
Gibbs said that when Obama talked about the best-case scenario for signing health care legislation is the fall (late-September to mid-October) he was talking about final passage.
Asked to respond to recent polling (including today’s NYT/CBS poll) that indicate that Obama’s support for health care reform is dropping, Gibbs jokingly blamed the media to start but then said that health care is a “complicated and very difficult thing to do.”
He said there is “far more coverage and focus on the process and less on substance,” which is why the president tried yesterday to bring the focus back to the key issues. Gibbs said health care reform is “still something Americans want to see.”
Gibbs said Obama will focus on the economy and health care while Congress is out of town in August, similar to the message he laid out yesterday at the two town hall meetings.
Obama Takes Part in Security Exercise Today
This morning the President will chair a meeting of the Homeland and National Security Councils as part of the National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09), the first national level exercise to focus on terrorism prevention in conjunction with federal, state, local, tribal, private sector and international partners.
More info on the exercise can be found HERE.
–Ann Compton and Karen Travers