On the first stop of his Asia trip, President Barack Obama visited the Wat Pho monastery, and asked a monk for prayers for he and other U.S. leaders to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff.
According to the White House pool report, Obama arrived at the "colorful and ornate Buddhist temple in the Phra Nakhon district" of Bangkok, Thailand, where he was given a tour by Head Monk Chaokun Suthee Thammanuwat.
"Yes we're working on this budget, we're going to need a lot of prayer for that," Obama quipped to him.
Obama and congressional leaders held what was thought to be a positive meeting at the White House on Friday as talks began in earnest to deal with trillions in spending and tax decisions due by the end of the year.
At a press conference later Sunday evening, Obama explained his joke to reporters.
"I'm confident that we can get our fiscal situation dealt with," he said. "I believe in prayer."
The full White House pool report:
Motorcade departed airport and made the trek along wide open highways into the center of Bangkok, then past the Government House which was decked out in bunting and a large sign reading "Welcome to the Honorable Barack Obama."
We arrived outside the Wat Pho monastery, a colorful and ornate Buddhist temple in the Phra Nakhon district. Pool was led to the open archway of a room with a golden Buddha and dark marble floors. This was the Eastern Viharn Phra. A faux tree towered behind the statue and the ceiling was painted red with gold medallions.
A few minutes later Head Monk Chaokun Suthee Thammanuwat, wearing a bright orange robe over one shoulder, led Potus, dressed in dark gray suit, and Sec of State Clinton, in royal blue pantsuit and gold necklace, into the room. Pool could not hear what they were saying as they circled the Buddha. The monk appeared to be explaining things for a few minutes before they left.
Pool was then taken to another large hallway dominated by a huge reclining gold Buddha, which streched the length of the building.This was the Viharn of the Reclining Buddha, and we were instructed to remove our shoes before entering. Again the monk led Potus and Clinton for a stroll past the giant figure, which dwarfed them all. Our third stop was in the courtyard where the trio strolled past a number of colorful spire-like columns. This was the Phra Maha Chedi Group.
The place was empty of tourists for the president's private tour. Pool overheard Clinton say: "What a peaceful place," and Potus responded: "If you have 80,000 people here it's not so peaceful. This is kind of a treat."
TV picked up Potus making a joke about the budget, saying to the monk "yes we're working on this budget, we're going to need a lot of prayer for that." And they laughed. Motorcade left about ten minutes later, headed for the hospital to visit the king.