December, I have learned, is not a great month to hit Washington, DC in search of news you can use. Everyone is rushing to get out of town, and it's tough to string together consecutive days with enough things to do to make the trip worthwhile. Back in 2009. my first year on the White House beat, I hadn't quite learned that lesson, so I took an early December jaunt to our nation's capitol, and wound up on a media tour of the White House decorations, and covering my first Congressional hearing.
This was back when Robert Gibbs was still the press secretary, and if you didn't get a seat in the first three rows, it was a lucky roll of the dice to get a question in at a briefing, and as it turned out, there was only one briefing scheduled for the time I was to be in town. Luckily, there was a great event featuring First Lady Michelle Obama previewing the 2009 holiday decorations, at which tons of news was sure to be made. If nothing else, it was a great chance to see the First Lady in action, and take a bunch of pictures that I would never, ever use. Until now, that is.
You might recognize the Grand Foyer from the East Room video I posted awhile back. This is Mrs. Obama's podium, waiting for her to grace it. through the doorway behind it, you can see the official White House tree from inside the Blue Room:
And here's the First Lady addressing a group of volunteers who helped to decorate the White House in 2009:
After the speech, the media got a tour of the decorations, which included a trippy nativity-themed tableau in the East Room and Christmas trees that are better than yours in every room, like this matched pair in the creatively-named Red Room:
There were two of these deluxe numbers in the State Dining Room, as well:
I also shot video of the East Room decorations and the main tree in the Blue Room, which you are seeing for the first time here:
Finally, there was a great station set up for us all to gawk at the gingerbread White House, and quiz Chef Bill Yosses on its specifications. Here is the full, uncut video of that interview, which contains many a fascinating fact about gingerbread architecture that you won't find anywhere else:
The next day, there actually was no White House briefing, so I headed to Capitol Hill to cover the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Secret Service. No, not that one. This one was about alleged white House "party crashers" Michaele and Tareq Salahi, and it was something to do. I used to have a great video clip of me ambushing then-Secret service director Mark Sullivan in the hallway to the hearing, and him giving me nothing, but some cable news cameraman absolutely losing his shit on me because I walked into his b-roll. Unfortunately, I can't find that one, so you'll have to make do with this weird shot of Fox News' Griff Jenkins taking cellphone shots inside the hearing:
And here's Sullivan being grilled at the witness table:
If I ever track down that Sullivan video, I will put it up, but I think I may have deleted it to save space (something I obviously rarely do). In the meantime, let me close with a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and also with this useless clip of Rep. Peter King (R-NY) blowing me off outside the hearing room: