A picture was truly worth a thousand words at the White House today.
Just one day after former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ contempt for Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy acumen spilled from between the covers of his 640-page memoir, President Obama and the vice president hardly had to say a word to get their message across.
The White House granted the press rare access to the normally private weekly lunch between the pair. They sat across from each other at a large dining table in the private dining room just off the Oval Office, a symbolic show of support from the commander in chief for his vice president.
In the brief photo opportunity, the president and vice president were heard speaking about the weather. As the cameras were escorted out of the room, Obama said he was trying to fulfill his mission “to be nicer to the White House press corps.”
There was nothing about Gates and no questions either, while still photographers and a television camera were allowed to briefly photograph the Obama and Biden meeting. No editorial presence was allowed in the room.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today the decision to allow cameras into the lunch was an effort to “provide greater access” to the White House.
And it wasn’t just the photo-op: The president has been standing by his man all day.
Obama and Biden earlier received the presidential daily briefing together and met with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to discuss changes to the National Security Agency. They were later scheduled to talk with leaders of the intelligence community about national security issues before heading into a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, all behind closed doors.
In his upcoming book, “Duty, Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates critiques the president and his team, specifically blasting Biden’s foreign policy judgment.
“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates writes, according to The New York Times.
The White House jumped to Biden’s defense with a statement Tuesday.
“The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day,” Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
Biden put his foreign policy chops to work earlier today, calling Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the second time in three days to discuss Iraq’s fight against al Qaeda-linked militants.
The White House distributed a read-out of that call to the media.