Travels With Obama: Behind-The-Scenes On The President’s Asia Trip

Apr 23, 2014 4:00pm
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Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

President Obama is in the midst of a week-long trip to four Asian nations, and ABC News is with him every step of the way. In the posts below, we hope to take you along for the ride — virtually — giving you behind-the-scenes snapshots of life inside the presidential bubble.

You’ll see glimpses of the massive logistical operation that supports independent U.S. press coverage of the presidency in real-time overseas. Also look for some of the lighter and quirkier moments on the road that don’t always make it into the papers or on TV.

Monday, April 28

State Dinner Via Satellite

Members of the press aren’t given any seats at tonight’s state dinner in Manila, much less be allowed inside to watch in person. But we do get a window on the festivities from our cameras on the sidelines, beaming back the picture — and the toasts — to our workspace a few miles away.

Beverly Hills Cop in Manila

Move over “Hail to the Chief,” the official musical flourish for President Obama in Manila just might be the theme song to “Beverly Hills Cop.” A ceremonial band hammered out the tune on xylophones and tooted from long cylindrical instruments as Obama and Philippines President Beningo Aquino walked the red carpet to the Malacanang Palace. (Paging Eddie Murphy and his red Mercedes convertible!)

Fast Filipino Fingers

On day seven of Obama’s Asian tour, a wonderful welcome to Manila from these Filipino children who have some fast fingers on their guitars.

Sunday, April 27

POTUS Posts Front Page Sweep

President Obama is front page news in Kuala Lumpur, from The Star to the New Sunday Times. He’s received very favorable coverage on the local editorial pages, many praising U.S. support in the hunt for flight MH370 and its endorsement of Malaysia’s rise as a regional economic player. “Terimakashi, Obama” means, “Thank you, Obama.”


Obama Campaign Reaches Malaysia

The first question at today’s press conference in Kuala Lumpur was awarded to a reporter from TV3 Malaysia — a woman wearing an Obama for America campaign button on her lapel. She asked both President Obama and Prime Minister Najib about the bilateral security relationship between the U.S. and Malaysia. Her piece of flair wasn’t the only sign of OFA’s reach: Obama invoked his 2008 campaign slogan to encourage the rise of a prosperous Malaysia. “We have a saying in America,” he said, “Yes We Can.”


Saturday, April 26

Celebratory Welcome for Press Corps in Malaysia

President Obama isn’t the only one who got a celebratory welcome in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cultural hand drummers lined the entrance to the press hotel as we arrived off the plane from Seoul. Inside for us: a fresh glass of local guava nectar. Meanwhile, Obama — marking the first visit by an American president here in nearly 50 years — feasted on “Soto Ayam Bergedil” (shredded Chicken, Rice Cake, fried glass noodle), wagyu beef or grilled cod, and warm banana fritters at a state dinner hosted by the king. #NotInvited

So Much for Selfies, Mr. President

After President Obama found himself in hot water over that selfie with Red Sox star David Ortiz, perhaps he’s become a little camera shy (at least the iPhone or Samsung kind). As Obama worked a ropeline after his speech at Yongsan Garrison in Korea, 13-year-old Mika Taylor asked if she could have a selfie. But Obama took a pass, saying if he did it for her, he’d have to do it with everyone. “Just take a picture of me as I’m going by,” Obama told her, according to TV pooler Bret Hovell who overheard the conversation.

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(Credit: Lee Jin-man/AP Photo)

Friday, April 25

“2 + 2″ For Obama and Park

The questions aren’t selected in advance, but the questioners are at most presidential press conferences on foreign trips. Customarily, White House press secretary Jay Carney and his foreign counterpart each select two reporters from their respective press corps to ask a question. Sometimes those journalists know ahead of time that they will be called on, other times not. It’s called a “2 and 2″ situation. As for the reporters, they can ask two questions – one of each leader – though often there are many mini-questions packed in there. ABC News’ Jonathan Karl had the honor in Seoul.

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(Credit: Devin Dwyer / ABC News)

Jammed Signals in Seoul

ABC News was the only independent TV camera crew inside President Obama’s tight traveling circle from Tokyo to Seoul, shooting and feeding out video of his visits to cultural sites and South Korea’s Blue House for use by all the networks. But from the motorcade to meeting rooms, outgoing communication on mobile devices was completely cut off by South Korean security services. Jamming devices scrambled all phone and data signals — even thwarted the use of wireless microphone transmitters.


Obama Dreams of Green Tea Ice Cream

It certainly sounds like an intriguing dessert: “ice cream in the shape of Mt. Fuji,” on the menu at Thursday night’s state dinner at the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, the press didn’t get a glimpse of the creation — or a chance to taste it. But ABC News shouted a question to President Obama about it as he waited to big farewell to Emperor Akihito at the Hotel Okura. “They had the green tea at the bottom that I’ve spoken about having since I was 6,” he said. “I was very pleased.”


‘Don’t Feed the Fish’

As the press corps bids farewell to Tokyo, we say “sayonara” to these Japanese koi, who have helped create a zen-like atmosphere in our garden hangout. Just whatever you do, don’t feed them!

Thursday, April 24

Dinner With A View At Hotel Okura

The American entourage traveling with Obama, both official and press, have practically taken over the Hotel Okura. It’s likely an unexpected (unwelcome?) surprise for other business travelers and guests — including those for dinner at the Terrace Restaurant. This normally tranquil Japanese garden, with its koi pond and flaming torches, has become a stand-up location for correspondents. Check it out:

Obama’s Limo Gets Japanese Plates

The two Cadillac presidential limousines rumbled into the Imperial Palace in Tokyo this morning, carrying President Obama for the start of his state visit here. First stop: meeting Emperor Akihito and his wife. Obama is officially the guest of the Emperor, though he will conduct most of his meetings and business with Prime Minister Abe.


Ambassador Caroline Kennedy on Dreamy Sushi

The morning after a sushi dinner with President Obama and Prime Minister Abe at the best shop in town, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy tells ABC’s Jonathan Karl that Jiro’s nigiri are incomparable. Catch the full interview on GMA Thursday ET.

Wednesday, April 23

Tokyo Taxis Have Class

It’s a race to the sushi counter… With two hours before Air Force One landed in Haneda, there was just enough time to squeeze in dinner before the presidential entourage snarls traffic and sends the city into a security lock-down. As we discovered, Japanese cab drivers are a little different than the ones back in the states:

Booming Protests Around Obama Hotel

From inside the Hotel Okura, the unsettling noise is unmistakable. Blaring statements over loudspeakers sound like a massive protest is underway nearby. Outside surrounding the hotel, police and security guards stand on alert with their batons unsheathed. But it turns out there are no protesters or massive crowds. Instead, the culprit were these vans owned by right-wing nationalist groups, blasting anti-Chinese sentiment.

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(Credit: Devin Dwyer/ABC News)

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(Credit: Devin Dwyer/ABC News)

Tuesday, April 22

The Press Does Not Pack Light

When members of the White House press corps take off for a week-long foreign trip, they pack heavy. All five major TV networks bring camera crews and correspondents on the air charter that precedes the Air Force One. Less than half the seats on our Airbus A330 were filled; but the cargo hold was crammed full. Check out all the lighting equipment, camera gear, tripods, and communications cases. #LiveTV

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Devin Dwyer/ ABCNews

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