Monday we went to the Old Executive Office Building (search) -- adjacent to the White House on the White House grounds -- to conduct an interview of President Bush's Chief of Staff, Andrew Card (search).
As usual, we first went to two wrong gates to get into the compound, but eventually found our way. Of course security is tight at the White House and thus the mistakes about the first two gates. All entrances to the White House and the compound are guarded by the Secret Service. You must have an appointment, provide photo identification and go through a metal detector (the only thing different about the process than boarding a plane is that your name is checked in a computer right at the entrance). You are then given a security badge which must be turned in when you exit. And yes, of course when I left I could not find mine at first. My assistant was holding it but I began frantically checking all my pockets until she pointed out she had it!
The interview was in the "studio" in the Old Executive Office Building. I think the term "studio" grossly over describes the space. Rather, it is one side of a room set up to have the appearance of a studio. There are two sets of book shelves, one behind the interviewer and the other behind the interviewee, and a fake fire place – I looked up the "chimney" to make sure it was false. The building is so old that it could easily have been a real one!
I had a few minutes before Secretary Card showed up so I checked out the titles of the books on the shelves. You can't see the titles of the books in the interview since the camera does not do close ups of the books, but I assure you, there are no "cliffhangers" on the shelves. My "favorite" is a book from 1888 about some government regulations -- I think I would rather do a year in prison than be forced to read it. Many of the books are simply old law books but there was an old book by humorist Art Buchwald. I think the best way to describe the collection is "eclectic," or "whatever someone could find." Incidentally, I interviewed Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin in this same "studio" in May of 2002.
Secretary Card is called "Secretary" because he was earlier in his career Secretary of Transportation and titles in this town "stick." When he sat down I said, "nice to see you Mr. Secretary" and he immediately said, "Andy." I said, "Thanks, Andy,” but that I felt more comfortable calling him by the title he earned in our interview. He was gracious and understood. Because he is extremely busy, I was given only 10 minutes for the interview – I think we actually squeezed in another two! As I neared the 10 minute mark, my producer was giving me the wind up sign behind Secretary Card but he was answering my question and I was not about to cut him off.
I decided before the interview to try and give you -- the viewers -- something besides the usual interview with a high ranking White House official. I decided to give you an idea of what the chief of staff actually does. I asked him such basic questions like, "What time do you get to work? What time do you leave? What do you do during the day?" I figured that in this city -- Washington, DC -- we in the media get so used to knowing what these officials do and their incredible schedules that we forget to tell you. So, expect a bit something different with this interview. And yes, we did talk about the commission investigating intelligence failures.
Finally two quick, and random, facts about Secretary Card. First, he is married to a "girl" he met in the fifth grade. Second, as he left the interview, he said goodbye to all the crew and our show staff in the room and remembered EACH person's name (he had been introduced when he entered the room).
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