White House representatives traveled to Chicago on Tuesday to tout the May summits of world leaders as an opportunity not only for hashing out global issues, but also for Chicago to boost its profile as a business and tourism center — echoing themes Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office put forward less than a week ago.
And as Emanuel's representatives did last week, the presidential assistants also downplayed the potential for protests of the NATO and G-8 meetings to give a black eye to President Barack Obama, or his hometown.
"At every one of these things, there are protests — so we factor that in to the equation," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said at a media briefing. "We are fully confident Chicago has more than the capability to deal with that."
Rhodes said he did not have an estimate of potential security costs but was confident the costs could be covered "without burdening Chicago taxpayers." Federal reimbursements and the private fundraising under way here should be sufficient, he said.
The NATO summit will focus on three areas: the phasing out of the Afghanistan war; providing missile defense systems during tight budget times; and forming strategic alliances with non-members around the world, according to Rhodes and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, senior director for European affairs.
The details of the G-8 agenda will be shaped closer to the meeting, they said. World leaders tend to focus on economic growth, global security and energy issues at these summits.
Chicago officials see the back-to-back summits May 19-21 as a chance to promote the city to overseas government representatives and media, through briefings, meetings and tours, Mark Angelson, deputy mayor, said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs is planning a series of speaking programs and conferences to help city residents better understand the issues that will come up at the summits. And local consular offices are trying to set up sessions between their visiting heads of state and city residents whose families hail from their countries.
All those sorts of initiatives should be possible, Rhodes and Sherwood-Randall said, noting some of these events can occur in the days before and after the summits.
"These become trademark events for cities," Rhodes said.
Obama's close ties to Chicago, as well as the city's infrastructure, its history of hosting large meetings and its ethnic diversity all played a role in its selection as the U.S. city to host the summits, he said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times