August 22nd, 2011
06:01 PM ET
(CNN) Martha's Vineyard, MA–Strong words today from President Obama as the situation in Libya deteriorated. "It's clear that Gadhafi's rule is over," the president announced once again calling on the Libyan strongman to step down. But the president cautioned that the situation in Libya remains fluid and his administration continues to monitor "fierce fighting" in some areas.
This on-camera statement from Mr. Obama at his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard ended two days of high-level talks, as well as late night and early morning conference calls with the president’s national security team – all amidst a family vacation.
On Sunday, the CNN team that was part of the White House travel pool gathered in the early morning to follow the president's movements. As the situation in Libya intensified, reporters clamored to find out if the president would speak on camera. The White House’s official response was, "not at this point."
The day progressed and the travel pool followed the president's movements from a morning at the beach to an afternoon of golf and a reception at the oceanfront home of a powerful media executive. And still no statement from the White House on Libya.
As evening approached, the White House alerted the travel pool that the president would be making an "off the record" movement where the press would be able to shoot video. It was finally a chance to see if the president would speak in front of the cameras.
Generally, the presidential motorcade speeds through the streets in a line of vehicles often numbering more than 20. The press rides in vans toward the end of this cavalcade. On Sunday, the White House staff warned that as the motorcade arrived at the as-yet unknown location, the reporters and photographers would need to run to get into place as the president greeted a crowd of onlookers.
When the motorcade approached the waterfront at Oak Bluffs, the van doors swung open and the press ran. In fact it was a stampede that just barely avoided a small child standing in its path.
The president shook hands with supporters, as reporters continuously shouted questions about the fighting in Libya. Finally the president addressed the press, saying that he was waiting for "full confirmation of what" was happening before he would make a formal statement. He then retreated into a local restaurant, departing just minutes later with First Lady Michelle Obama as they headed to dinner at presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett's home on the island.
It was later learned that during that more-than two-hour dinner the president was holding a lengthy conference call with members of his national security team on developments in Libya. Late on Sunday night, the White House released a written statement from the president saying "the momentum against the Qadhafi regime has reached a tipping point" and once again calling on the leader to step down.
Monday tensions mounted as the White House announced an off-camera briefing for reporters with the deputy press secretary. The time for this briefing slid later as reporters again speculated if the president himself might show up in the makeshift briefing room fashioned out of a banquet hall at a local Martha's Vineyard hotel. Finally Principle Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke with reporters, announcing that the president would indeed speak on-camera at 2pm. When asked to preview the president’s speech, Earnest would give few details, except to say that on one issue the president's position remained firm: there would be no U.S. troops on the ground in Libya.
An hour later, the president stood outside his vacation home and vowed that the United States would partner with the emerging leadership in Libya. While the U.S. government continues to monitor a complex and fluid situation, Mr. Obama added, "True justice will not come from reprisals and violence. It will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny.”