Tuesday, March 29, 2011

London March 29

Clinton flew into London last night for today's international conference on Libya. The timing was a little tough -- NATO has only just figured out how they are going to take control of "the mission", and Obama was due to make his big televised Libya speech to the nation on Monday evening.

We left in the morning and flew through the day, arriving at around 11:45 p.m. at Stanstead airport. This is a long way out of London..at least 1-1/4 hours by van. But it was late and there was nobody on the road. About halfway through the drive everybody received the White House email of Obama's Libya speech and started to read it immediately on their blackberries. By the time we arrived at the hotel the speech was over.

We are staying at a Marriott next to Hyde Park. When the daylight came you could look out over the park and see the silhouette of the "Gherkin" building in the distance through the trees. And the red double decker London buses whiz past. We sat up for a while taking to the head of disaster coordination for USAID (who is here to help with planning for the humanitarian relief effort that everyone expects to start once the fighting ends). He was just finished dealing with the Japanese tsunami/meltdown -- and worried that Congress is going to halve his budget next year despite the string of catastrophes that seems to unfolding around the world.

Up this morning early for a "background" briefing with a "senior administration official" -- nothing new in it, but at least some fresh quotes to start the day. These set-piece conference news stories are always sort of a drag: there are rarely any surprises, there is almost no access, and there is a lot of waiting.

We moved over to the conference center around midday -- whizzing past Buckingham Palace just as the guard was changing -- and took our seats in another cavernous room half full of people batting away at their laptops. We now await Clinton's "intervention" (code for 'speech') at the conference, and then her press conference later in the day. After that, we head back to the plane and home.

Speaking of the plane, here's a photo. It is pretty much the view we always have (in fact, for me, better than normal -- I pulled one of the "business class" seats in the seat lottery). It feels as though everyone spends a lot of time on this plane...reading, sleeping, just sitting and watching the flight map move VERY slowly. When I get home tonight I will have flown across the Atlantic four times in 9 days.