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MEMBERS ONLY: Behind the Scenes With a Pair Of Right-Wingers

Banter White House correspondent Tommy Christopher reads you in on this week's White House coverage, then takes you into the green room with Thom Hartmann's conservative guests.

Happy Dyngus Day, Banterinos, and welcome to a very special Members Only column that still doesn't have a name because you didn't give me any suggestions! This week's White House trip was very brief and largely uneventful, but our trip to Thom Hartman's The Big Picture came with the added bonus of conservative guests, of whom I took copious behind-the-scenes footage.

On Tuesday, I headed over to the White House with little time to spare because I found on-street parking, and wanted to give myself as much time as possible to beat the meter-readers. As you'll see from this week's film, that was clearly a mistake. The Secret Service continues to herd people around the White House like selfie-stick-wielding Pac Men to show that they're doing something, and when I finally got to the Northwest entrance, there was a huge line waiting to get in.

There were no events on the president's schedule, but there seemed to be a lot of visitors with kids and babies waiting to get in, plus the Fox News Radio correspondent had a gaggle of college students with him on a field trip. I was trying out my new iPad for this week's video, and discovered that I'm even lousier at turning it off than I am with the camera, so I wound up with a lot of footage of us standing on line, but also, as a bonus, an iPad's-eye-view of going through the X-ray machine. The picture is nominally better than what I was getting with the camera, but the sound isn't so good, although that could be because of the case I've got it in.

I also broadcast Tuesday's briefing using Periscope, but I've decided that until one of these formats improves to include widescreen filming, it's just not worth the trouble to produce a broadcast that's inferior to's.

After the briefing, I had a few meetings, and got some awful news for us. Our best White House source is leaving this week, and likely won't be replaced. For most reporters, this wouldn't matter much, because the common view of a "great source" is someone who leaks juicy details or public relations trial balloons, but this source was more of a policy expert than anything else, and had a very un-flack-like affinity for candid, off-the-record discussions.

If the aim is clicks and eyeballs, then the guy who gets you a salable quote is king, but if your mission is to inform, then not so much. Even on policy matters, most press deputies are more interested in maintaining message discipline than helping reporters to understand the issues, which, to be fair, is probably a result of most reporters not actually being interested in understanding the issues.

With my parking meter running out, I decided to head over to the RT America building, where my car was parked, and try to get some work done. Turns out, I was about an hour late, but no ticket! After a few hours of working in Hartmann's green room, some of the guests for his show started to filter in, and I found out I'd be on a panel with two conservatives!

This is my absolute favorite kind of segment, because while doing one-on-one hits with Hartmann is fun, it's also a bit like a tee-ball Home Run Derby. Doing panels with conservatives is a hell of a lot more fun, and he sets a great table by pulling no punches, but making sure everyone's still friends when it's over.

One of the guests was The R Street Institute's Nathan Leamer. He's a conservative who believes in climate change and "leans libertarian" (that's conservative code for "Don't lump me in with the racists and homophobes even though I vote with them"), so he didn't figure to be that much fun. I quizzed him briefly in the green room before the show, and learned something about lemurs, to boot:

Those guys are no fun to argue with, because any time you nail them with a good point, they get all reasonable on you, like this:

The other guest, though, was former Prop 8 spokesperson and current and Washington Times columnist Jennifer Kerns, who made no bones about the discriminatory intent of Indiana's RFRA law, and her disappointment at Gov. Mike Pence's supposed capitulation. I interviewd Kerns and Leamer in the smaller studio outside the makeup room as we waited to do our segment. Here's that footage, plus some between-segment video from the set. You can watch the full segments here and here, including the moment that made one of the production crew laugh out loud in the middle of the show:

As we left the set, I said, to Leamer, "Well, she seemed like a perfectly nice hateful demon-person," and I was only half-joking. Kerns was, indeed, perfectly nice, and I do think that Proposition 8 was a particularly evil anti-gay campaign because it sought to undo marriages that had already taken place, but I do have a certain appreciation for people like Kerns and, say, the owners of Memories Pizza. They're not trying to conceal their agendas under concern-trolling about peyote, or some conveniently pure reading of the Bill of Rights, like Rand Paul. When she asserts that wedding photography constitutes "free expression," as if you can just take a thousand shots of the one hot bridesmaid you want to nail and be like "Pay me!", you know right where she's coming from, and right where she can go. If everyone else were this honest, things would be a lot better, and there would be no Republican Party. I know, I just said two things that mean the same thing.