Reporters were asked to meet at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center at 3:15 p.m. to cover the arrival at Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in Honolulu.
More than two hour later, the “SecDef” was made available after he finished a guided tour of the Battleship Missouri.
Takeaways: Gates said visiting the Missouri (a Kansan, he pronounced it “Missourah”) he was reminded of the sacrifice of the U.S. military, praised Hawaii’s two senators (he pronounced it “IN-oh-way”), stated that the U.S. won’t “slacken” in its commitment to the Pacific-Asia region and argued that the U.S. wanted to end the pain and suffering in Afghanistan as much as Hamid Karzai, despite complaints about errant NATO missions that kill civilians.
(Note to Mr. Fact Check: Gates said 80 percent of casualties in Afghansitan are caused by the Taliban.)
The interview lasted less than five minutes. Time for three or four questions tops.
It was not Gates’ fault.
Defense Department officials coordinate his trips, and they are serious business. German shepherds sniffed the bags and cameras brought by the media; a police boat circled close to the Missouri’s starboard side.
Gates’ stop was also a short one, as he heads Wednesday for a meeting of defense ministers in Singapore. Gates will retire next month.
While waiting for Gates, the local press pool played with their smart phones and bantered, at one point trying to match the 50 flags arranged near the Missouri’s fantail with their respective state. (Who knew that Maryland’s looks like a royal coat of arms!)
One camera guy grumbled when Gates’ chief handler tried to have the brief “presser” on the Missouri’s deck, right beneath the massive gun turrets. “It’s too windy,” he complained.
But, there was decent B-roll of Gates looking serious and curious as his escorts explained the Missouri’s history. And, the press conference was held on the dock and the sound quality was fine. Before Gates spoke, some of the national press pool joked about having covered Sarah Palin’s visit with bikers in D.C. over the weekend.
The last question for Gates came from a Hawaii TV reporter, who asked how long the SecDef would be staying in Hawaii.
“Not long enough,” said Gates, seeming to mean it.
And off he went. The reporters soon followed, with stories and images to file.
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