How “global governance” works

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We said – a couple of us start to walk up to the room where the multilat is because we had sent advance to look at the room, the room where we were going to have the China bilat and realize the room is occupied by what we think are the Chinese and we can’t get into the room to look at it. So they come back and it sort of got our antennae up a little bit. So by the time several of us, including Denis McDonough and I, got into the multilateral room we’ve now figured out why we can’t get into that room: because that room has Wen, Lula, Singh and Zuma. They’re all having a meeting.

Q So they weren’t at the airport?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Or they came back.

Q And you guys didn’t know this.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We did not know this. We are getting – I can show you some of the emails that we’re getting saying – because truthfully I asked one of the advance guys, did you see anybody else in the hallway? And he said, just clearly Chinese.

Q So Wen –

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Wen, Lula, Singh and Zuma. But we’re starting to get emails one by one, hey Zuma is in this room, too; hey, Singh is in this room, too. So all of a sudden that’s when we start to make sure we’re walking up to the multilateral room. The President is beginning to leave. He spends time right before he leaves – this would have been right before 7:00 p.m., the President is talking with Chancellor Merkel and Gordon Brown about going for this bilateral meeting with Premier Wen, that they had rescheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Again, we thought we were still on for a bilateral meeting. That’s when our delegation walked over. We held and I think Ben moved the pool because we had heard at this point previous to this that the pool for the Chinese had been assembled outside of this room. And we had the President wait for a minute while Ben moved the pool so that – we had heard that they were going to pre-set without any of us. So we had the President hold.

That’s I think when many of you start to pick up this story. This is when I think you, in the pool report, said, you know –

Q When he said, are you ready, are you ready?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Are you ready for me? We were going to –

Q You were going to crash their meeting.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, no, no, no, no. We weren’t crashing a meeting; we were going for our bilateral meeting.

Q And you found those other people there.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We found the other people there. We found this out as we were going –

Q So as you walked in you realized it –

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We found this out – remember, we found this out as Denis and I are walking up to the room to go with the President, because the delegations were the same for the Wen bilat, Denis, Ben and I were both in the delegation for the original Wen bilat. That’s when the President walks in – Helene has in the pool report, you know, “Are you ready for me?”

Q Is it correct to say that when he walked in he didn’t know?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t – I think it’s safe to say they did not intend to have that meeting with four of them; they intended to have that meeting with one. The President walks in – and by the time I finally push through I hear the President say – there aren’t any seats, right, I mean, I think if you’ve seen some of the pictures, there were basically no chairs.

– From Robert Gibbs’ play-by-play to reporters on Air Force 1, en route home from Copenhagen.