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CHICAGO (CBS) — Ending a two-day meeting of world leaders, President Obama said his hometown “performed magnificently” as a host for the NATO summit.
At his news conference at the end of the session, where he outlined the strategic policy accomplishments at the summit, including the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, he took one question about Chicago–from CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine.
“Good to see you Jay, how you been,” Obama said.
The president said that while Chicago may have been stressed about problems from protesters, he welcomed their right to make their voices heard.
“To my Chicago press,” he said. “Outside of Chicago, folks weren’t really all that stressed [about having protesters]. This what NATO defends. This part of free speech.”
He joked that Mayor Rahm Emanuel may have been a bit stressed, but that he and the Chicago Police Department “did wonderfully” under intense scrutiny.
There were a few intense moments during the three days of protests throughout downtown, including some scuffling between protesters and police in riot gear. As of Monday afternoon, there were fewer than 80 arrests and nobody was seriously injured. The biggest altercation happened on Sunday after the biggest protest march that ended up just a few blocks from McCormick Place.
He also acknowledged the fact that many Chicagoans had to endure delays and other inconveniences as several roads and businesses were closed during the meeting. He added that even he wasn’t able to sleep at his own home, only 15 minutes away from McCormick Place.
He did say that staying at a hotel “was good for the Chicago economy.”
“I have to tell you, I think Chicago performed magnificently … those of us who were in the summit had a great experience,” he said, adding the leaders “loved the city.”
In fact, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Obama he was sneaking off to do some sightseeing.
Each NATO leader was also given a small replica of “The Bean” sculpture as well as a football from their Solider Field dinner on Sunday night.
“Many did not know what to do with it,” Obama joked.
Obama said the NATO leaders want Afghanistan to take the lead in combat operations in 2013, with the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2014. The president said that wouldn’t end the world’s involvement with the nation, however.
“There won’t be an optimal point that we say, ‘This is all done,’” Obama said.