Official Visit: Diplomacy meets March Madness in field trip to the heartland...
Last year, on the eve of their respective State/Official Visits, President Obama escorted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Korean President Lee Myung-bak to lovely dinners at DC-area restaurants. But for British Prime Minister David Cameron's Official Visit, which started late Tuesday, Mr. Obama had something more interesting in mind. The two leaders reaffirmed the Special Relationship in the University of Dayton Arena in Ohio as they enjoyed courtside hot dogs and shared the President's favorite pastime. The hand-held dinner was to the background music of a cheering crowd of about 8,460 as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defeated the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils during a hard-fought first-round NCAA mens' game.
“I thought it was going to be wonderful for the Prime Minister to have a chance, not only to see a basketball game for the first time, but also to come to the great state of Ohio,” the President said during a half-time interview with CBS sports analyst Clark Kellogg.
Dinner was delivered by two young women. The Prime Minister put ketchup on his dog, "and both men ate the dogs pretty quickly," pool reported. Mr. Cameron sipped a cola, while the President sipped water. Attire was casual: Mr. Obama wore slacks, a blue and white checkered shirt and a light jacket; Mr. Cameron wore blue jeans and a black long-sleeve shirt.
The jaunt to the battleground state involved a ride on Air Force One, where the two huddled in the President's office and spoke privately for most of the flight, according to an aide. At the arena, the President seemed to be explaining the logistics of hoops, and the two were seated behind one of the baskets with Downing Street chief of staff Ed Llewellyn, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
They were surrounded by University of Dayton students and staff. There was handshaking with excited onlookers, and the President held a baby, of course.
While their husbands enjoyed the game, First Lady Obama and Mrs. Smantha Cameron were at the White House: This writer spotted them sitting together on the third floor balcony overlooking the South Lawn, watching a glorious sunset above the National Mall. The clouds were streaked with an ethereal gold light and it was a balmy evening, close to 80 degrees. The fountain in the lower middle of the South Lawn was lit with red lights, in preparation for the decor scheme for tomorrow night's State Dinner. Part of the event will be held in a huge white tent situated nearby. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Cameron earlier in the day attended a special Let's Move! mini-Olympics event at American University.
>CLICK HERE for links to all posts about the Camerons' visit.
At halftime, the President and Prime Minister's interview with Clark Kellogg was broadcast on TruTV, and they discussed the President's NCAA brackets and the 2012 Summer Olympics, too.
The Kellogg interview:
Gov. Kasich, a Republican, confided to the press pool that he spent much of the first half of the game lobbying the President on shale gas development in Ohio. Kasich was touting the glories of fracking, a kind of drilling that has become highly controversial, but he was attempting to assure the President that it can be done safely. No tap water will be igniting in Ohio, if all goes as Kasich plans.
The President and Prime Minister arrived in Ohio from Washington at 5:42 PM local time, and were greeted on the tarmac by Kasich. Also at the airport to greet the President were Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell; Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory; General Donald Hoffman, Commander, Air Force Material Command; Colonel Amanda Gladney, 88th Air Base Wing Commander; and Lieutenant General C.D. Moore, Air Force Material Command Vice Commander.
The President and Mr. Cameron departed the arena at 9:12 PM, as "Western Kentucky had just mounted a furious comeback and was trailing by one point," pool noted.
On Wednesday morning, the Prime Minister's Official Visit gets underway with a formal Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn.
*Photos by AP/pool, except for second photo, via The Prime Minister's Office. TruTv video.