For this week’s Members Only column, dear Banterers, I have a few special treats lined up for you. It begins with my last trip to the White House, and ends with me making someone's list of 40 best Oscar tweets. That's what you call a renaissance man.
Last week's trip to the White House began at 3 a.m. on the snowy, unplowed highways of New Jersey, where I unwisely set out on a 3-hour drive that would end up taking me five hours. My goal was to get to D.C. early enough to secure a parking spot in a specific half-block stretch near the White House where the pay-to-park meter has been busted for several weeks. The roads started out shitty and remained so, but the driving conditions in D.C. were ridiculous. I've never seen people so baffled by driving in three inches of slush. Several near-accidents and hours of white-knuckle driving later, I got my free parking space. Totally worth it.
Apparently, I was the only person prepared to do any work on Tuesday, because when I took the Metro to the Capitol to pick up some paperwork, I found out the whole place was shut down for the day. As I arrived at the White House, I checked my email and discovered that Tuesday's briefing had been canceled. I spent the rest of the day meeting with those folks who did show up at the White House, and then headed over to RT America for an appearance on Thom Hartmann's The Big Picture.
Here's a little bit of that, as Thom, Neal Sroka, and I chop it up over D.C. pot legalization and Iraq. I got a pretty big laugh out of Hartmann with a quip about how the district will deal with Congress' interference:
"I think what you'll have is the invisible roach clip of the marketplace will take over."
After Hartmann, I was reunited with an old friend, Sally Albright, whom I haven't seen since the 2008 Pennsylvania primary. She was working advance for the Hillary Clinton campaign, and I was covering Hillary's victory party for AOL. We had some times, and then fell out of contact, and back in over social media. She is a force of nature, and anyone who needs a great communications strategist could hardly do better than Sally. She's currently turning the southwest waterfront into the next happening spot in D.C. This is Sally and me:
On Wednesday, I slept through my alarm, but still got my free parking space, and kept walking around thinking it was Thursday. As has become my custom, I took some video diary footage to share with all of you, but I'm going to present it slightly differently. Here's the pre-briefing video from Thursday, which features a little bit of color on my daily routine at the White House. Included is my solution to the fact that someone straight-up stole my half-and-half on Tuesday. I had three of those little creamer cups right next to my Splenda and my Wawa mug, and someone just took the obviously not-theirs creamers. It was messed up.
So, after I made my tea, I was in the briefing room doing my thing when a dude asked me where the New York Daily News seat was, which was right next to me. He sat down and told me he had been on the beat for about three weeks, and still hadn't gotten his first question in yet. He was being super-chatty, and while some reporters were kind of dicks to him, I tried to offer some advice, although I couldn't figure out why a Daily News correspondent would need any. It turns out the reporter, Randy Foreman, wasn't with the Daily News, he just knew that seat was usually empty. Randy writes for the conservative NewsBlaze, I asked Randy to say hi to all of you, and here he is explaining that his native Iowa boasts the current hipster mecca of the world, Des Moines:
I told Foreman that his best course of action was to meet with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest after the briefing, and just sound him out on any random topic, throwing the introduction in as an aside. The key is to get him to remember your face, and that you're not an idiot. Randy's eagerness and chattiness reminded me all too well of my own early days on the White House beat, where some folks were more patient than others, so I hope my advice and camaraderie were helpful to him. Randy's a good bit more charming than I ever was, so I think he'll do just fine.
Wednesday was also the sixth anniversary of my first briefing, and also the day before my 47th birthday, so I was heartened to get a couple of questions in. Here's the one I didn't end up using, not because I referred to State Department spox Marie Harf as "Melanie," but because I didn't really get an answer:
My hope was that Earnest would explain the difference between a Muslim community that is living in fear of a dangerous backlash and a Christian community that is squarely in the majority in this country, and more broadly, that the point of the administration's invocation of self-styled Christians who commit atrocities is not to blame Christianity, but to illustrate that the religions themselves are equally blameless. Harf's attempt was clumsy, at best, and I was hoping Josh would clean it up.
I also had the chance to interview Rodney Batten, longtime cameraman for NBC News. Since I've been covering the White House, I've meant to interview the camera and crew with whom I spend most of my time in the in-between times, but this is the first chance I've gotten. Here are some of Rodney's thoughts about covering the White House:
After the briefing, I covered the president's remarks at the Summit for Countering Violent Extremism, mainly so I could take you guys along to see what covering President Obama's events is like, and also ran into Jana Winter, ex of Fox News and currently of The Intercept. Here's some behind-the scenes footage of that:
All throughout the speech, I noticed that people were posing for selfies at the back of the room, with the president in the background, which has apparently been a thing for a long time, but which I'd never noticed. It should be noted that The Daily Caller's Neil Munro obligingly acted as cameraman for many of the attendees.
Following the event, I caught up with Dean Obeidallah, and while some of it was published last week, I saved most of that interview for our members. Here's my full interview with Dean Obeidallah:
Finally, I managed to get a little footage of Ed Henry doing a live-to-tape hit in the briefing room Wednesday night. Here's what it looks like in the room, versus what Fox News viewers saw at home:
That's it for this week, loyal Banter members, but I'm working on something really special for next week. Until then, I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse behind the curtain.