CHICAGO -- Barack Obama took the meaning of "secret meeting" to a different level last night, after he slipped away from the traveling press in order to meet with Hillary Clinton. While it is not uncommon for a presidential candidate and for the president to have private meetings, it is uncommon for those meetings to be as secretive and misleading as this one turned out to be.
The controversy began to develop after a campaign rally in Bristow, Virginia, when the press was whisked away to Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C., to board a flight to Chicago. According to campaign staffers, Obama had scheduled interviews with local Chicago television reporters and would meet up at the airport shortly. After waiting for Obama for over an hour, the situation on the plane quickly went from tiresome to alarming once the pilot informed the press that the doors had been locked and the plane was about to take off.
As the plane rolled down the tarmac, the press quickly realized that Obama had never boarded the flight and we had all been duped. Minutes later, communications director Robert Gibbs casually informed the press that Obama had stayed behind in Washington for "meetings", without specifying who the meetings were with. As we began to frantically call our assignment desks to alert them that the presumptive Democratic nominee was running free in Washington, the plane took off for Chicago, leaving us trapped on a plane.
The tight-lipped Gibbs chose to brief the press on Obama's whereabouts only after the plane was airborne.
"Sen. Obama is going to be in Washington for a little bit," Gibbs explained. "Our schedule was running a little ahead of time so we had time for meetings that he wanted to do so we scheduled some meetings for him tonight and he'll fly back to Chicago a couple hours after we do." At the time, Gibbs would not confirm that the meeting was with Hillary Clinton, but did say that the meeting was private at request of the other person.
"It wasn't an attempt to deceive in anyway, it's just private meetings," he said.
However, Gibbs failed to explain why the press was fooled into believing that Obama would be on the flight to Chicago and why we were not given the chance to de-plane once we learned that Obama would be staying in Washington. He simply said, with a mischievous grin, "We could have sat on the runway for a couple of hours so we decided to go."
Upon landing in Chicago, Gibbs informed the weary travelers that Obama had indeed met with Clinton as part of the end of the primary process. Details surrounding the meeting were not released, nor was the location disclosed. Shortly thereafter, both campaigns released the following statement:
"Senator Clinton and Senator Obama met tonight and had a productive discussion about the important work that needs to be done to succeed in November."